I’ve been reading for a long time. And I read A LOT. Just a few stats to put that into perspective. Since 2011, I’ve averaged around 20,000 pages read in a single calendar year. Now before you freak out and think that I must sit in my PJs all day, every day (the dream of most bookworms), that’s about 1 book a week or 52 books per year. I love books, reading and literature so much that I majored in English literature in college and spent one month studying in England back in 1999.
I honestly cannot remember the first book I read to myself. But I can tell you that after 4 years of being forced to read mostly dry boring classics that the book that got me reading again was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. (Yes, I watch the show. Yes, I’m a fan—it’s a pretty faithful adaptation. And yes, there may be dried drool on my issue of this week’s Entertainment Weekly.) And after years of reading, and now going on 4 years of blogging I’ve discovered something about myself as a reader and a person.
Back in 2015, things were not going well at my previous job. I was unhappy and I retreated into the fictional world of books. That year is clocked in at 72 books and 22,868 pages read between January 1 and December 31. Many of the books I read that year featured a certain type of lead character. Turns out, the leads I connect best with are loud, brash, independent females who are trying to find their way in their world wherever (and whenever) that might be. Upon further reflection, it appears that has always been the case—honestly Trixie Belden and her gal pal, Honey, couldn’t have solved 39 different mysteries in their little town without sticking their noses where they didn’t belong and speaking up for justice. Back in 2015, when I was down and out and probably depressed, I wrote this post for my blog and realized that I’m drawn to these loud, brash, independent characters because that is who I want to be in the real world.
Many times, in the real world, this type of female is perceived as a bitch, a troublemaker, a rabble-rouser. As a reader, I admire them. I sit back in my reading nook and think, “I can do that. I can stand up to so-and-so and get what I want.” or “I can walk away from so-and-so because they are not completing me as a person.” But then reality hits. The moment you stand up and walk away, your friends and family walk the other way and don’t look back. In the workplace, standing up and getting what you need, like a raise or fighting to get the right level of customer service for a client, there are whispers behind your back that you always get what you want. Suddenly, you are alone, whether that is the reality or just a perceived notion, because you see no one else fighting the same way you are.
When you are standing alone, it’s comforting to take refuge in a book where the lead character mirrors your life in some way. It brings comfort. It brings solace. A feeling of solidarity. The words, “I am not alone.” ring loud in your head and your heart. Sometimes in these books, the character has a trusty sidekick—a best girlfriend, the boy next door that they are in denial of loving, or the adult figure who coaxes the character to realize their full potential. Other times, the character is able to pull herself up by her bootstraps and move on all on her own. The problem is, unless you are reading non-fiction, none of it is real. And sometimes you need it to be real.
It’s important to remember at times when it feels like hope is lost and you feel you are alone that like your favorite fictional character, you need to stop, look around and take stock of what’s around you. What hasn’t changed since you made that important decision to fight for what is right or walk away from a toxic relationship? Whatever is remaining be—whether it’s a single thing or a single person—that is what you can count on. Those are the things that matter. And it’s not silly if it is your beloved pet or if it’s the fact you have a roof over your head. Some of our favorite characters have had far less when the dust settled.
A version of this post was originally written in March 2015. Read it now.
The post was updated for the Cracked Walnut Reading on August 26, 2017. Yes, I read this aloud to a group of people and survived.