After I took my six-hour fluids final last Thursday, I walked to the public library to buy a book. That may seem a bit foolish. I walked to the one place they will give you books for free to purchase a book, but this is becoming a little bit of a tradition for me. For less than a coffee from Small World, I can have a new-old, worn book. The selection is limited, but sometimes I just need to buy myself a self-care book.
This practice is named after Michael’s self-care chapstick. He recently told me that whenever life is stressful or hectic, he goes to Wawa and buys himself a self-care chapstick. It’s just one small piece of calm that he can get for himself when every other part of life is moving so quickly. Although I personally am more in the business of losing chapstick than buying it, I realized that I buy these $2 books for a similar reason.
When everything in my life seems to just be dragging me along with it and my planner has three separate to-do lists for each day, I can buy a book that takes me outside of my world of science and math for a moment. I do love my research and courses, but I also like to be reminded that, while science is a form of art and beauty, it is not the only art in life.When I was at MIT, I often viewed my humanities courses as obligations and failed to recognize their role in providing portrayals of emotion and stories of individuals that cannot be easily captured by equations and graphs. For two dollars, I can own hundreds of pages full of words placed in a manner that recognizes their beauty in addition to their effectiveness and full of words that invite me into the story or poem instead of asking me to observe life objectively.
I will always love science and engineering, and research is still something I find incredibly thrilling, but buying these books when I am stressed reminds me of the other parts of myself. I have been thinking a lot about what you wrote about how we change over time, Andi. I always tell one of my oldest friends, Meredith, that ten-year-old-Meredith would think that she is the absolute coolest person in the world. I do not know what ten-year-old-Molly would think of me, partially because I never imagined being an engineer or going to school past undergrad. I do know that all ten-year-old-Molly wanted when she grew up was a library.
Obviously our tastes change as people, but I still love to read. Or at least I remember loving reading before college when I had time to do so. I started reading for fun again this past summer and realized how much I still enjoy it. These past two semesters, I have had very little time for reading, but, every time I read even a few pages, I was reminded of how much I enjoy it and I promised myself to read more once the semester was over.
So every self-care book I buy is honoring ten-year-old-Molly and building a library for myself. I will soon be in a place where I will have room for more than a handful of books for the first time since I started college. I am so excited to surround myself with new poems and prose and to actually set aside time to read it this summer and, hopefully, for the rest of my life.
So this is my appreciation post for the two-dollar self-care books, or, perhaps more appropriately, my appreciation post for the Princeton Public Library. Thank you for providing a sense of calm after long exams and stressful weeks. Thank you for pulling me out of my research bubble. Thank you for reminding me of a little kid who dreamed of having a library. Thank you for letting me fill my new room with words.