Wide pan of shelves full of books

Knowingly breaking the rules…thrice.

Using the word “rules” sounds much more punitive than it really should be.

At the start of 2018, I set an intention to not purchase any books in the year ahead. I own too many already; I have access to a wealth of books through the public library, not to mention family and friends.

Still, I knowingly and willingly broke my “rule” three times. Here are my confessions.

Stacks of books where titles are visible.

All three transgressions took place in the last quarter of the year. The first occurred in the most capitalist way imaginable: utilizing Amazon Prime for that free two-day shipping of “The House on Tradd Street.” Why did I knowingly participate in the transgression? My reasoning was two-fold:

  • First, the Durham Public Library did not offer a non-digital version of the novel. I know myself well enough at this age to recognize the need for paper.
  • Second, I wanted to have the book ahead of my air travel to and from Phoenix. I did check out the online search options for the local Durham bookstore; alas, it came up empty. Thus, you find me opening my Amazon app (so dangerous) and securing a used copy of Karen White’s novel in advance of my vacation.

In my opinion, this is the most egregious, blatant disregard for my own modus operandi. If I had planned better, taken a bit more time to seek out alternative sellers, I may have easily avoided the online megalopolis that is Amazon. But, I didn’t. And I panicked. And I didn’t have any credit card reward points available.

So it is written. So it is done. Perhaps I would feel less guilt about this transaction if I had found the book to be remarkable/life-changing/enlightening. Unfortunately, I found none of the above. A mediocre story to appeal to mass audiences narrated by an unlikable protagonist whose doughnut lifestyle never seemed to manifest in any negative repercussions in her form or fitness.

Spare me.

In contrast, the other two times I knowingly broke my own prescribed rule failed to invoke the same level of guilt/shame. The main difference: partaking in said purchases through local, independent bookstores.

It requires little effort for me to justify spending money at Changing Hands in Phoenix or Letters Bookshop in Durham. Both offer incredible selections that complement each shop’s physical space. Additionally, both house new and used titles, giving this avid reader opportunity to cash in her own books that have been read and shelved in the home library. Store credit? Yes, please.

Also, when Michelle Obama drops a book where she unveils her journey through infertility, how could I not want for those words and emotions to hold in my grasp? Each reveal in this space is so precious, so meaningful. I don’t want to share it with strangers in the public library system. Nor do I selfishly want to wait for it. I am no Aaron Burr. When it comes to the quest and quench for writing, consider me a modern day Alexander Hamilton.

I will experience zero consequences for my defiance (outside of the financial investment). At this point, I do not anticipate engaging in this behavior anymore in 2018.

How formal I’ve become with myself. Establishing rules. Holding myself accountable. Purging my guilt through a public admission. Where do all of these feelings live during the day-to-day of life? Do they bury themselves deep within the self or stay closer to the surface, at the ready to reveal themselves at a moment’s notice? I like to think of my guilt sitting deep in an internal well; but as often as such emotions arise, it seems hard-to-believe they could resurface so quickly, and so often, unless they set up camp just underneath the skin.

I should not feel guilt in my hungering for the written word. I should not feel shame for indulging in the brilliance of writers who inspire me. I feel guilt for hungering for the written word. I feel guilt for indulging in self-satisfying transactions that remind me the number of opportunities I chose not to engage in furthering my dream of authorship.