ashley rego. 22. rhode island. graphic design major & relentless creator.
I’ve lived multiple lives; have recognized myself by multiple names, genders and even species. I’m not talking about the idea of reincarnation or my personal experience of dealing with schizophrenia (which is something I don’t deal with). What I’m actually here to write about are my reasons for reading and what happens when I’m sinking into a book.
The first book I can really remember feeling a personal connection with is I’d Choose You written by Dr. John T. Trent. It’s a children’s book that was read to me when I was around three years old. I’d Choose You begins with a young elephant named Norbert coming home from school and claiming he has had the worst day of his life and then he relives the experiences to his mother elephant. His experiences include how he had to sit all by himself at the very end of the roller coaster on the way to school, doesn’t get picked for a baseball team and so on. By the end of the book his mother and father elephant ultimately make Norbert feel better by saying they would choose him first for each and every one of those situations.
As a young child I often associated myself with Norbert and the feeling of being left out. It was easier to imagine myself as a little elephant that had to sit in the lonely caboose on the roller coaster than to face the fact that I was often just a lonely little girl. Being the outcome of a teenage pregnancy I was often dropped off at different houses to be cared for and became that responsibility that didn’t want to be dealt with. Being abandoned by my father and having my mother push me onto others I just ultimately felt unwanted. But when the words written by Dr. John T. Trent were read aloud to me those feelings went away because I was Norbert, the little elephant whose parents would choose for every occasion.
When I was in fifth grade I had picked up Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt which tells the tale of a ten year old Winnie Foster who is raised by a well-bred family with many rules and keep Winnie safe at all times behind their iron fence. Winnie grows tired and frustrated with her life and runs away into the woods where she stumbles across the Tuck family who became immortal from drinking from a certain spring. She is trusted and fascinated with the secret of their way of living. After being put to the test of keeping their secret safe from the public Winnie is separated from the Tucks and is never reunited because she lived her life and never drank from the spring.
I lost myself while reading Tuck Everlasting; I felt the frustration of living the first ten years of my life behind an iron fence and never really living. The mental images of running through the tall grass or jumping from waterfalls became cherished memories. I felt the internal debate whether to drink from the spring to continue the timeless living of the Tucks or to learn from this experience and to appreciate the rightness of the mortal life. I became Winnie Foster.
During my senior year of high school I breezed through a book that really will always hold a special place in my heart. This book is The Perks of Being a Wallflower written by Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is written in letterform addressed to “Friend”, narrating Charlie’s thoughts of his freshman year of high school. Through this year he grows from only being a quiet wallflower to experiencing life and dealing with difficult situations. Since the whole book seems to be addressed to the reader the words gain more meaning and it really does feel like you are Charlie in these situations, feeling the awkwardness, confusion, sadness and even love.
We’ve all had our tough years in life, and I would have to say the senior year of high school was one of the toughest. Within that year I was dealing with the suicide of my father, who had been absent for over ten years already experienced a traumatic car crash, and had to deal with the weekly checkups with my guidance counselor who really thought that the college application process was really the most important thing going on at the moment. I became distant and because of it friends disappeared which really made my lonely moods seem heavier. The Perks of Being a Wallflower really helped me a lot, Chbosky made me feel like I really wasn’t alone with certain feelings and thoughts. I’ve reread this book countless times since and I guess it’s just because sometimes I need to know that I am not alone. Whether on one page I am Charlie’s anonymous friend or Charlie himself the words always had me tangled up with feelings just the same.
As I’m typing these words I can swear to you that I am only a twenty year old college girl, but have been called multiple names, lived in different times and even haven’t even been human. I will also swear to you that I’m really not diagnosed with schizophrenia…yet and that I at least don’t recall myself reincarnating into different beings. I lose myself and find myself at the same time when breaking into an affective book. The only thing I can hope for you is that you will find books to lose yourself in and to ultimately realize that you are never alone, that is the last thing I will swear to you, you’re not alone.