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  • Iʼm a born strategist or perhaps a made one, although I tend not to plan. I reflect. It occurred to me recently that even reading—that activity to which I have devoted so much of my “free” time is not exempt. The first chapter book I finished was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and only then because my father offered me a reward, which might have been money and it might have been his praise. But it wasnʼt for the “adventures” alluded to in the title.

    Left to my own devices, I set the book aside, disliking the fence-whitewashing scene for its trickery. It was the reason my father suggested the great American novel in the first place. He had made an allusion to Tom Sawyerʼs canniness trying to help me recognize that people will try to manipulate you for their advantage. I resisted that lesson, thinking he was wrong about people, that he and Mr. Twain were giving people bad ideas.

    My friend L.J. says parents should lie to their children regularly and early on so theyʼll learn to develop critical capacity.

    Later I read for stickers at the library, or because my mother valued reading enough to let me do it instead of mopping the kitchen. I read during the summer to be prepared for the school year, to score higher on standardized tests, to improve myself. I was convinced of these motives. Being the oldest daughter and a natural pleaser, I swayed in the winds of external perception. They shifted and I read to know why, to get ahead of them, to find the one to finally live by.

    I read to train my person and at some point, the writer I wanted to become. And now—I find them both buried somewhere far beneath that wealth of information, like a dog under an avalanche. I carve a brick out with an icicle and push it through this narrow opening, hoping to break some glass, or for the sun outside to melt it, or for the design I inlaid of a Jesus fish to glisten and attract the warm bodies of many many seals.
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