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I spend a lot of free time reading, which has always been one of my favourite things. But with so much going on lately, I haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d like. This is why it took me about four months to finish 11/22/63 by Stephen King. In true King fashion, the book is enormous. It’s an 800+ page behemoth that worked ardently at turning me into a hunchback every time it was deposited into my backpack. I seriously started to feel that if this book was to become part of my daily arsenal then maybe I was going to need a back brace.

This is the book in my hand. It’s a hard cover, which puts it at about 2.5 to 3 lbs by my rough, and probably very wrong estimate.

And this is the book dwarfing my 14lb cat. He’s not impressed by the size of it either.

When I started this book in January, I was still at my old job. I was working 11 hour days because of the bus strike. The YRT went on strike mid-October 2011 and didn’t come back to service until February 2012, which is beyond ridiculous. I would have to get a ride into work at 630am every morning, and work until 6pm when my boyfriend was able to come get me. He would drop me off at the office, drive to the train station and commute downtown for his job in the morning. Then after the commute home in the evening, he would hop in the car and pick me up from work. This absurd arrangement persisted for about three months and was taking quite the toll on both of us.

The days were impossibly long, and I started out thinking that it was a good thing to work longer hours because I was so busy. But of course, after 3 months of working like this it got old. In January, when I got fed up with the ridiculous hours and realized that nobody was taking notice anyways, I thought “fuck it” and I started leaving when my 8 hours was up. I’d walk to the local coffee shop and enjoy my book for an hour or so every night. My boyfriend would meet me there instead of the office, and it felt good to have a little me time to unwind every night.

The thing is, I need at least 30 minutes after work to unwind by myself and I wasn’t getting that initially. I’d work right up until 6pm and still have a hard time pulling away from the desk after 3 extra hours per workday. When it was time to go home, I’d get in the car at the absolute peak of stressfulness. I was wound so tightly that the smallest provocation would unleash all the rage accrued throughout the day that I had taken great pains to internalize.

My boyfriend was a total basket of stress at this point in the day too. He’d spend an hour on the train, surrounded by a bunch of smelly, annoying fuck-tard commuters (by the way, I can call them that because I did a brief stint commuting on the train so I know what really goes down on those things) and then he’d have to race to the car, tear out of the parking lot ahead of everyone else, and fight the masses of rush hour traffic to get to my office.

At the end of the workday when our stresses were combined, we were a powder keg ready to blow. And trust me, there were some spectacular blow outs! Instead of two mature young professionals, two starved wild dogs out for blood were getting into the car every night.

Plus, as soon as you’ve finished work and you’re all wired with stress, should the first interaction you have be with your significant other? No it should not. If you have unresolved stresses you should have the opportunity to take them out on innocent bystanders instead. Rip the server a new one for getting your order wrong, tell some douche in the elevator to shut the fuck up and quit humming that shit in your ear, or flip off that dickbag driver cutting suddenly in front of you. I’m a firm believer in venting before going home. If you’re pissed off let it out on someone who doesn’t matter, or some inanimate object even. I am partial pushing the elevator buttons really hard and slamming desk drawers shut. Letting it out in these ways means that there’s a smaller chance of that crap coming home with me.

After a particularly scarring battle royale on the car ride home one night, I decided for the sake of my health, my sanity, and my relationship that I needed to start leaving at the right time even if I couldn’t get home quite yet. So I’d take my book and enjoy some me time at the end of the day. When it was time to go home, I’d get in the car much more my normal self and I’d be able to listen sympathetically to my poor boyfriend instead of exacerbating his stress by adding all of my own to the mix.

Eventually the bus strike ended and I got to commute to and from work like a normal human being. However, this slowed down my reading time a lot. It took me forever to finish this book, even though it was really quite riveting.

I was nearing the end around 10:30 one night and it was getting so good that I decided to stay up until I was finished. I only had another 75 pages or so to go, so why not? I dug deep into my reserves of wakefulness and kept going. When I finally got to the last page it was 12:45am and my eyes were getting heavy but my heart was getting lighter.

It’s a very strange sensation to finish a book when you’ve invested so much time. If it was enjoyable, there’s a small feeling of disappointment that there isn’t more to look forward to. If it was terrible, there’s a sense of accomplishment for sticking it out to the end. But if it’s really good… there’s this bizarre feeling euphoria coupled with a harsh comedown. I was buzzing with excitement when my eyes swept over the last word on the very last page. The good feeling of finishing a book was magnified tenfold on this one because of how long it took, how incredible the story was, and how reaching the end of this book so closely paralleled the end of my woes with the transit strike, and my life at the time.

I consider finishing this book a tremendous success for me. Finishing a book may be a small joy for some, but finally closing this one is definitely the brightest spot in my week. I’ve heard that some people will read the last page of a book first, just to know what they’re getting into. That’s pure craziness! The best part of a book is building to the end and being totally surprised, or having your predictions validated.

Or sometimes, that last page might just be the thing you need to help you to realize how far you’ve come from beginning to end.

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