It might have been post-college letdown. Maybe it was heartbreak. Or it could have been the stress of deciding where the rest of my life was going. But at age 23, I’d fallen out of love with literature. I remember beginning and quitting and endless string of books. Nothing clicked with me. Nothing seemed interesting. I just couldn’t get myself to read.
Until a new coworker gave me his copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read the entire book in half of a day. I started it at our after-school sports banquet. While the team played miniature golf and ate pizza, I sat in a corner booth and read this book. I was still new at my job, so I didn’t know many people. And since I’m not much of a schmoozer, I brought the book along in case I didn’t have anyone to talk to. (This was before the time of the “check your email on you iPhone so you look like you have something to do”.) I started the book, but even as people came to talk to me or invited me to golf, I stayed in my corner booth, reading this book that I couldn’t put down. When it was time to leave, I hadn’t finished. So I curled up on my couch that night and read into the wee hours of the night.
These are the things that spoke to me…
“It suddenly dawned on me that if Michael were still around, Susan probably wouldn’t be “going out” with him anymore. Not because she’s a bad person or shallow or mean. But because things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
“…so I sat down and tried to write a story. ‘Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight.’ That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn’t think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave Ian alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at him.”
“It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why. Especially since I know that if they went to another school, the person who had their heart broken would have had their heart broken by somebody else, so why does it have to be so personal?”
“It’s like when you are excited about a girl and you see a couple holding hands, and you feel so happy for them. And other times you see the same couple, and they make you so mad. And all you want is to always feel happy for them because you know that if you do, then it means that you’re happy, too.”
“I had an amazing feeling when I finally held the tape in my hand. I just thought to myself that in the palm of my hand, there was this one tape that had all of these memories and feelings and great joy and sadness. Right there in the palm of my hand. And I thought about how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs.”
And the problem is that I could keep writing down quotes. Almost my entire copy of the book (I went out and bought my own copy to reread) has dog-eared pages. Because on almost every page, this book spoke to me. And I remembered what it was like to become best friends with a book, to feel as though something had been written just for me. And once I remembered this, I began to find it in other books. I began to read and read and read.
I didn’t stop reading until today. Right now, I’m currently in a lull. Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished my own book and have been focused on that. Or perhaps it’s also because it’s frustrating to me to read books that are similar in style and development and wonder why they could get published and mine is striking out so far. Or maybe I’m stressed about where my life is heading, about that seemingly poor decision I made back at age 23. Ha.
Whatever the reason, I hope I find another spark, another book like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Something to help me remember the joy of hearing my voice in a story.