My weekend is all booked

Senior Madison Geering finds much value in reading, including gaining empathy for others. Geering’s sweatshirt defined the height of her reading obsession during middle school. (Madison Geering)

In the back of my closet, buried at the bottom of an old box, is the most daring piece of clothing I have ever owned.

Well, maybe not the most daring article of clothing but definitely the one with the biggest personality.

It is a heather-gray sweatshirt with the words ‘my weekend is all booked’ plastered across the front in bold black font. A proud stack of books decorate the center of the sweatshirt, complementing the pun written above it.

Here’s the thing: I never wore the clever sweatshirt out of the house. The only people who ever saw me in it were my two next-door neighbors who were the same age as my sister and I. 

And they were relentless… in the best possible way.

My sweatshirt became a hilarious, affectionate inside joke between us. They knew I was a big reader, and we would always laugh about how me the sweatshirt was. 

Years later, the sweatshirt sat unworn in my bedroom. The memories came rushing back to me as I pulled it from its resting place, intending to donate it since I never wore it anymore. Immediately, I texted my friends a picture, recounting how that piece of clothing represented an era in my life.

“Maddie, no!” they said. “You can’t give away the book sweatshirt!”

I laughed to myself as I read their replies, but I moved the sweatshirt into the donate pile anyway. Yes, the sweatshirt was an artifact of my past, but it is what it represents that I wanted to keep with me.

Reading forces me to see the nature of life in a simpler light and prompts me to act accordingly once I turn the last page.”

— Madison Geering

The time in my life when I wore that sweatshirt was a time where my weekends were, indeed, “all booked” with recreational reading. For me, it was an escape from the calamity of deadlines and drama. Reading transported me into another dimension entirely, shapeshifting me into a confident heroine, a savvy sorcerer or an ambitious warrior.

Reading helped me shapeshift into all the people I wasn’t.

It was so refreshing to see life through another person’s eyes, even if they didn’t exist. There’s something about being the ‘reader’ that gives you a bird’s eye perspective. When the character is thinking through a chaotic internal conflict, we easily see how they can overcome it we root for them.

In my life, I often get caught up in my thoughts, second-guessing and overthinking. Reading forces me to see the nature of life in a simpler light and prompts me to act accordingly once I turn the last page.

But more than that, reading has helped me develop the trait I value most: empathy. 

I’m not perfect. Sometimes I fail at being empathetic. Overwhelmingly, however, I have found myself considering what it would be like being in someone else’s shoes, empathizing with them, because of my adventures in reading.

There’s something about spending 500 pages in another person’s head that grounds you. It reminds you that you have no idea what someone else could be going through that everyone else is experiencing life just as vividly and turbulently as you are.

It reminds you that you’re not alone.

As I folded up my old sweatshirt, I smiled at that thought: I’m not alone. It’s the gift that reading has given me: simple words on a page have become my companionship.

It was time to give away the book sweatshirt. Someone else could use it more than me, and the piece of clothing was just a relic of my time in middle school.

But trust me, my weekend is still ‘all booked.’