As a child I was lonely most of the time. This is why I became an incessant reader. Not because I was smart, or because I enjoyed it so much. It was because I felt so alone. It didn’t help much that I hated how I looked, how I sounded, and who I was.
So after school I would read Island of the Blue Dolphins and imagine myself in an exotic setting going on exotic adventures. Or maybe it was To Kill a Mockingbird and I would find myself discussing with Scout, Jem, and Dill about ways to make Boo Radley appear. When suppertime came, I was summoned from my daydream to dine on hamburgers or hotdogs or chicken or spaghettie accompanied by macaroni or fries or green beans or potatoes. As soon as that ended, though, I was back swimming where dolphins swam or watching Atticus walk down the street toward home. All done within the friendly confines of my own mind, of course.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I’ll also tell you that I was involved in other activities as well. Activities that involved other people. I was a member of the Carter High School Marching Band as well as the basketball team. I enjoyed taking part in both activities. I would have like it better if it weren’t for the others inolved, though.
I can’t exactly pinpoint why I was so anti-social. But I have a pretty good guess.
Dealing with other people can get messy, what with all of the emotions involved. You know what I mean, don’t you? The hurt feelings and the discussions about hurt feelings and the trying to find out if people who say they are your friends really like you or not and the whole “vulnerability thing” were all too much for me. By choosing to be alone, I avoided all of those things. I didn’t have to explain how I felt to anyone. I didn’t have to worry about the feelings of others. I didn’t have to open up.
Books don’t make you explain yourself, they just sit there waiting for you to read them. You don’t have open up to books, they are the ones that get opened up. Books are givers of information, not emotion. Books are safe.
But slowly, ever so slowly, I found out that it couldn’t just be me and my books forever. I found out something as I read book after book (especially as I read the Bible). Life is not supposed to be lived alone. And while I could keep existing by reading book after book, I could not really live without experiencing life with others.
It’s been several years now since I came to this realization. There have been times of success and times of failure. But since then, I have learned things that no book will be able to fully explain. Things like how to forgive when the hurt is so deep, how to really love people instead of just tolerate them, and how to ask for help when I need it.
We have been placed in each others’ lives for a reason. I hope I always remember that valuable lesson.