My name is Arbenita Mikushnica and this is the story of how reading saved me. I wrote this article when I was younger as a way of expressing the pivotal role that reading has played in my life. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. I have always found myself instantly bonding with people who share the same views as me when it comes to reading. I’m hoping, through this (short but sweet) article, I can reach out to the many other people whom have had the pleasure of both losing and finding themselves in novels in the same way that I have.
They never told me that growing up to be an introvert in the middle of the hustle and bustle of London would be as challenging as it has been. Having been surrounded by secure, opinionated extroverts my whole life, I’ve always been the sore thumb. I always despised feeling lost as a kid and yet ironically never minded losing myself in a novel. In fact, as cliché as it may sound, it really was my escape; my escape from certainty and inevitability. Coming from a black-and-white culture and a family who’d already decided my life would be academically oriented, reading compensated for the lack of control and colour I possessed in many aspects of my life. People often turn to music in times of distress, but I have yet to discover the lyrics to a song that resonate with my soul the way the words in a novel do.
Watching J.K. Rowling’s A Year In One Life documentary, I realized that when an individual discovers a book of which resembles so many concepts and perhaps absent relationships in their life, they need answers. It is perhaps the reason why Hazel from The Fault in our Stars travelled half way across the world to discover what happens to the characters after the Imperial Affliction had finished (or should I say, not finished.) She found herself relating to the protagonist so dearly that she needed to seek validation from the only person in control of the character’s (and essentially her own) fate: the author. It is also possibly the reason why Rowling felt the need to plan out the destiny of each Harry Potter character despite her reluctance to continuing the Hogwarts series.
It leaves us craving this unrealistic, impossible need for immortality, continuity and ironically, closure; despite our never wanting it to come to a close. It is the reason we as readers are never satisfied with the termination of a novel – maybe it is not the ending to the plot itself that was disappointing, but the mere fact that it ended in the first place. Nevertheless, I’ve always sought after comfort in the unknown. I think, despite our evolutionary need for security, I’ve always liked the idea of limbo and endless possibilities; a novel that is open to different interpretations. It is for that very reason that I’ve always found math-based subjects to be extremely restrictive; the idea that there is only one right answer to any problem has always seemed alien to me.
In the words of the impossibly talented George RR Martin himself: “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Never have I related to a quote so much in all the lives that I’ve lived. The Perks of being a Wallflower is the one novel that taught me that it’s okay to be different whilst Susan Cain’s Quiet taught me to also love myself for it. Whenever my journeys of venturing with Anna Karenina on a sad, lonely train or justifying Holden Caulfield’s ‘phony’ ways came to an end, I’d crave the need to walk in the shoes of a different character. It’s amazing to think back to the many lives I’ve lived, the different places I’ve seen, the many thoughts I’ve had; all in the privacy of my own bedroom. Because that’s what reading does. From a very young age, I’ve always admired its ability to do that. Despite having studied psychology at university and worked at a psychiatric hospital myself, it is not until I read Challenger Deep that I truly understood the inner workings of a schizophrenic mind. And if that isn’t proof of how powerful reading can be, then I really don’t know what is. Despite my own lacking in need of closure, I do hope that someone does decide to bring the made-up novel Imperial Affliction to life (not only because I think it would make for an awesome novel) but mainly because there are many Hazels out there who depend on endings of novels such as these to get them by.