An Essay by Michelle Tea
I don’t know if I’d had a falling out with a friend or was experiencing some difficulty making any in the first place, but I do remember what a powerful consolation reading was during a moment of childhood loneliness. Not really a consolation, more of a revelation. Inside every book was an entire world – at least one world, maybe even more, and friends galore. Who gave a fig about real-life friends if I could crack open a book and find intrigue and adventure, understanding and validation? People in books really seemed to ‘get me.’ And they were so much smarter and funnier than the people I knew!
Though books may have been a balm for a friendless moment, indeed, I believe I became a better friend from so much reading, as most stories are about the things that pull us together and drive us apart. I learned about what makes people tick, myself included, and by having compassion for the characters in books I learned to care about people. Aren’t we all just the narrators of our own first-person novels? Fumbling and bumbling, trying our best or succumbing to laziness, experiencing failing and triumphs in a lifetime of sizes. If I can keep rooting for an imperfect storybook character, than why not root for myself, and root for you, too?
Reading took my mind off my childish troubles, and it takes my mind off grown-up ones, too. Getting lost is a reassurance - the world is vast, bigger than whatever is dragging you down, and should you ever need to remind yourself, to escape or recharge, to find inspiration or wisdom, books are there to help you.
Attached to my revelation that, truly, all I need in life were books to be happy, was another understanding – books are endless! There are millions of them! Even if I wanted to, I could not read ever single book that has ever been written, and they’re pumping out new ones by the day, by the bucket! I felt a deep, existential relief at this, this knowledge that no matter what else may happen in life I will never, ever run out of books. Forever they are there for me – and you! – whenever we want to know better how to live in this world, or whenever we wish to escape it completely.