The other day I was leaving my therapist’s office (I see a therapist for anxiety related issues, which can be a whole post in and of itself), and thinking about how much I have changed in the last few years. I then got to thinking about what helped lead me to be more comfortable in my own skin. One of the main things is reading, finding characters I can relate to and being part of a plot that in the end finds a solution.
During my session we got to talking about me being an introvert and that for the longest time I thought that being quiet was wrong. I grew up in an extroverted household and around a lot of extroverted people. I was seen as the shy one, sometimes even a bit rude because I had an issue talking with people. I thought there was something wrong with how I interacted with the world, because I was so different from those around me.
It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I realized that being quiet is not a wrong thing. I realized this after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It made me realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I just experienced the world differently.
There was nothing wrong with the fact that being around huge groups of people all the time was exhausting to me. I could put a name and idea to the way I got frustrated, tired and irritable after being around people all the time. It started to make sense. I realized how to adjust myself. I learned how to find a balance between what I need and the world around me.
I don’t know if I would have ever found that balance without that book. That is not the first time that a book impacted my life though. Books have been helping me find a way to deal with world around me ever since I can remember.
I began reading when I was young because I felt like I needed somewhere to belong. Being the quiet one made me invisible in school. I had a few friends but no one seemed to see me. I was quiet so the teachers wrote me off as one not to worry about while other students figured I wasn’t worth the time to get to know. Books made me realize that I mattered in someway.
I read and saw these characters work to find solutions to huge problems. Whether it was the world ending, a personal problem or saving a loved one; they always found a way to solve that problem. Sometimes it worked as they wanted, while other times it didn’t. Yet they always found a way to move one and continue living. I learned from my favorite stories what courage meant.
I fell in love with characters that I could relate to in the stories I loved. Hermione was this nerd that at first seemed like someone everyone was going to write off. She loved to study and learn new things, just like me. She was teased but she never changed who she was at her core. She stood up for herself and continued living for herself.
One moment I remember hitting me hard was in the fourth book when she gets all done up for the Yule Ball. She liked how she looked but realized that effort was too much for everyday. She was just as satisfied with how she looked every other day of her life as well.
For me that meant a lot. I have always had an issue with accepting the way I look. I am not what you would call a girly girl. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing dresses until my last weekend in college. I still only wear them now once in a while. I never wear makeup because I just don’t see enough of a different not justify the time needed. I have always thought of myself as a bit less because I don’t follow the usual stereotype of what being a girl means.
I found characters in books who were able to accept themselves as they were. Not only was there Hermione but Clary in Mortal Instruments and April from the Everworld series. I found myself in books and found ways I could relate to the world around me better.
As I grew older this became even more important. Recently I read The Hearts We Sold and Dee talked about her anxiety a bit, I felt like I could relate more to the character. I also have learned how to be stronger from the stories I have read. I read wondering how in the world things can work out sometimes and yet they always do. Characters find a way to succeed and I know that I can too.
For someone who has spent most of my life thinking that I have been living life wrong; being 29 and unmarried, no kids and just finding a full time job this year, I appreciate a story where things don’t go as they “should” go. I get to see that life is too complicated for us to ever think we have to live it one way.
I know when I pick up a book that it will take me somewhere where I can learn sometime. Even in books that I don’t enjoy that much, there is always something I can learn. I will always be someone who pushes reading as the most important thing in our society.
We learn about others while learning about ourselves by reading. Books help us see that the world is complicated but also conquerable. Books provide hope.
I just was thinking about all this the other day and thought writing it up would be interesting. How has reading shaped your life?