I’m a bit of a loner.
I don’t run with any cliques or groups, and I’m not that big of a texter. I find it loads of work to actively seek people out and have conversations with them through the interwebs, and the ones who try to seek me out realize that after a couple days or weeks of conversation. I definitely have friends! I’m surrounded by them, and peers, and good acquaintances. But I don’t run with a crowd, and I never really have. I’ve always been proud of being a “lone wolf,” but that isn’t really a good example of my social life. I’m more like a butterfly, flitting from one flower (or group) to another. There’s no exclusivity, and I mesh with pretty much everyone. Yet, despite being surrounded by great friends and listeners, I still think I’m a loner at times.
It’s not being alone that’s the matter, but being lonely.
Because people can never really know what you’re thinking, can they? It’s that feeling when you’re trying to explain something, but you can’t find the word for it. Or there are no words that can explain it. And no matter how many times people say, “Same!” Or “Dude for real man!” (I’m guilty of this too), you know that what they experience doesn’t bear a similarity to what you do. It’s not like we can stick a tube or something between each other’s brains and immediately know what the other person is talking about. Anyways, that’s the conclusion I get when I ruminate.
But when I read, I don’t feel lonely anymore.
More than half of the time, it’s because of the escape a story offers. The hope, the wonderment, the differing views on one situation, the rainbow of feelings that you can get from black ink on paper. It’s that feeling of living vicariously through a character, no matter if the conflict of the story is trying to raise a rebellion against a government or figuring out how to cope with their friends leaving the neighborhood. It’s that feeling of, “Hey, I totally get what this character is going through! And I’m glad I’m not alone.” Because sometimes books put into words things that people might not want to share, or don’t have the ability to.
Sometime Most times you’ll hear of me complaining about a contemporary book being “unrealistic,” because when I read contemporaries, I want to be able to read a situation that I could imagine happening in real life. One that could possibly help me in the future, or could help me deal with my own present, or could make me think of my past in a different way. So when I’m reading about some girl going on a vacation the summer before her senior year without worrying about colleges or exams or the future, and instead staring at a boy’s eyes, I want scoop my eyeballs out. Those are great stories that are entertaining and a nice diversion. They are fluffy – but that’s it. Once you experience that fluffiness, you kind of get a sense of… nothingness. Or at last that’s what I feel. What am I left with? At last science fiction or fantasies take me on an adventure. Minimal character development coupled with maximum drama is no doubt wonderful for many readers out there. Heck, sometimes I’m in the mood for them too. But ultimately, my main interest is on those books where I can connect to the characters and go like, “Dude, I’ve been there.”
This is why diversity is so damn important.
And at this point, it’s not even just about LGBTQ or POC characters, but also ones that don’t fit in with the status quo. We all expect Asians to be smart, blondes to be beautifully dumb, and school band members to be geeky. It’s littered in popular culture. But that could be further from the truth. I have Asian friends who are less than motivated to do well in academics, a gorgeous blonde friend who’s the valedictorian of her graduating class, and know of a drum major in band who became prom king. Who’s the geek now? The last contemporary books I’ve read took place during the summer between junior and senior year, or after senior year, and they passed by like a blur. Not only because the major characters were all white, but they had the same mentalities: not caring about the future, ignorance about the people and situations around them, and an odd fixation on cute boys. Don’t get me wrong, I love cute boys and girls and animals, but after reading about the merits of one’s glorious physical qualities for pages on end, I can’t help but want to punch something. Preferably one of these “chiseled jaw” dude’s jaw. News flash! There’s much more going on in our brains then sex and parties and traveling and best friends who they will hang on to for dear life because even I know that friendships in high school may not survive in the next decade.
(Ha, call me cynical at seventeen.)
Anyways, those summer reads were just so monotonous. Not just because they all felt the same, but because the situations were so similar. But in fact, there are so many situations out there and so many different things that can happen that I can’t help but explore new books to see what ideas an author might have. To me, it’s worth it to read 10 “meh” books if I could find that one jewel in the midst of them. Plus, “meh” books are awesome too. The number one reason why I read is to escape reality, right? Any book will do. But the gems are the ones that can resonate with me – because I am a very lost soul.
I don’t know how many times I’ve taken a “Do you have depression?” test. I’ve researched ways to find out if you’re asexual, and a couple of tests on if I’m bisexual, and wondered if I have OCD or ADHD and I still have no clue if I’m any of these things. One day I’ll be stressing and internally dying about my grades and the next, I’m ready to throw away my homework. I’ll watch a video in psychology and will be paranoid that I might have a certain disease or disorder. I frequent the phrase, “Hate my life,” all the while shoving down motivational quotes down my throat. One day I want to go to school at a prestigious college, and the next I want to fly to Thailand to become an exotic dancer. The point of this wacko paragraph is that I have no idea who I am right now. As an adolescent, I’m constantly faced with having to choose my future by society and yet, I just want to enjoy life? I’m not even sure I want to do even that anymore (hence that question mark). People are telling me what to do, from my parents to my classmates to my teachers, and any sense of identity has disappeared the moment I entered school. Forced to deal with classmates that I love dearly, but always questioning whether we’d be good friends if we didn’t have the same classes or not, every day I feel like a person in the middle of a desert; one that knows where each path leads, only to be tricked because surprise! It was just a mirage.
But you know what’s not a mirage? Books. They’re my tranquil zone; the only place I’d be happy to get lost to. They’re my de-stresser, my friend, my listeners, and my teachers. They sometimes get me annoyed, maybe even mad, but most times they offer an escape that either takes me to another world or offers another look at the reality I live in, and the scenarios that can occur. They teach lessons, or create adventures, or make characters that I just want to befriend, or make me feel cuddly and warm inside, or give me a reality check, or know exactly what I’m feeling.
The teenage brain is a hella weird thing, as is so popularly said. Sometimes I just want to skip 10 years of my life because high school is not the time of my life. What a lot of young adult books have to offer are not explanations of the teenage brain, (because we so dearly love to be psychoanalyzed), but what they would do in situations that could happen. Reactions that are oh-so-similar to what I, or my friend Anna, or my cousin would do. And that’s the beauty of it – the possibilities are endless.
So I guess this post got a bit ranty and I digressed quite a bit because I’m a talker and at the same time I’m a bit too shy to really talk about these things to friends that I regularly talk to (hence this blog), but there it is. I read all sorts of books to escape from reality. Like, the whole spectrum. But the reason I read YA? To find understanding in a place I can’t find in real life. To see the different scenarios that can be played out, or to discover new ways to look at old concepts. Not just to learn, but to live. Because let me tell you, reading the lives of all these characters of books is just living vicariously through them. And let me tell you, that’s a thousand and more lives lived for me.