2020 has been one hell of a year. The COVID-19 pandemic, the election, protests, and more—everything has been the perfect storm of anxiety and emotional exhaustion. The only way I was going to survive day-after-day was if I found a way to let off steam. I needed something that let me escape this year, even if only for a few hours at a time.
That escape ended up being reading.
I have always been an avid reader. But in the last few months, I've rekindled a love for books I didn't immediately realize was burnt out. Book after book, I found myself totally immersed in a new life, a new time period, a new story and I was glad for the distractions.
My partner and I moved into our new house in March, just days before Michigan went into lockdown to combat the coronavirus. It seemed like the perfect time to get the house set up and get a ton of reading done. But the pandemic made furnishing my new home even more difficult than normal—we couldn't go to stores for home decor or browse for a new couch, but we managed as best we could. I had plans to turn a corner of the master bedroom into a reading nook, but I just couldn't find anything that I liked or that fit the space perfectly.
As I started to unpack books in the dining room, itching to read them, I created a disaster zone. There were books everywhere. Stacks littered the table, the floor, and were constantly being bumped and shuffled around. I could feel myself getting overwhelmed, my anxiety growing stronger because I wanted so badly to relax in my own space. Eventually, I decided to just get a bookshelf—any bookshelf—that would help me to organize my fast-growing mess.
It would be months before I started this project—my anxiety got the best of me. But when the Goodwill shared a photo of a five-tiered bookshelf on Instagram that was only $6.99, I had to make a move. I couldn't pass up a perfectly good, thrifted shelf for that kind of price. Once I picked it up from the store, it was as if all the other pieces of my soon-to-be reading corner were jumping out at me.
I browsed Facebook Marketplace for a couple days, hoping to find a chair in decent shape and before I knew it, a slightly scraggly, vintage chair appeared. It's not my usual style, but to be honest, I wasn't sure what my style was and felt like I should lean into the pieces, let them tell their own story.
My newfound project was starting to take shape and I was so excited.
For days, I would send friends and family screenshots of tables and lamps that I thought would work best. I wanted to amplify the vintage vibes I had started to create, so I scoured Facebook Marketplace some more and visited a few other thrift shops around Grand Rapids. I needed a side table to hold my tea, the perfect reading lamp, and a small footstool to rest my feet. Eventually, I landed on a small wooden table with plenty of storage, a gorgeous brass table lamp, a footstool that perfectly coordinates with my chair, and a fuzzy rug. I hung my artwork, added some mood lighting, and one day I stood back and realized: I was done. My corner was exactly what I wanted.
I'm no interior designer, I'm just a gal who wanted a cozy place to read a million books. But through this project, I built more than just a reading nook. I ended up helping myself. It wasn't just exciting to buy new items for the house—it was exciting to have something to focus on, something other than heart-wrenching headlines, COVID-19 statistics, or presidential debates.
My pandemic project brought peace to my life and it improved my mental health in ways I wasn't expecting. I implore everyone to find a creative or relaxing outlet, a small project, or a new book series that will help you decompress and find some joy in the day, because we all deserve a little joy right now.
April Simone Stevens, a Grand Rapids-based book blogger, enjoys writing, reading and cooking. When not working as a digital producer for 13 ON YOUR SIDE, April Simone is often found between the stacks at local bookstores or sipping tea at her favorite cafe. Keep up with her adventures and reflections on Instagram: @books.with.april
Photo courtesy of April Simone Stevens.