There is an ancient Chinese Proverb that a book is like a garden carried in a pocket and even though as a child I never understood it, now I do. As humans and as diverse individuals we always look for a certain activity that provides us an escape route from the shackles of daily life or our problems or even the nightmares that we often have to face in reality. Now there is no shame in accepting that as living human beings we all have our fair share of problems and difficulties to deal with. These drawbacks and complications differ from individual to individual and these are certainly not solved by whining and complaining about them.
When any individual – infant, child, adult or even a grownup is given a set of problems to deal with, each one of them reacts in a different way. Even the intensity of the difficulty varies. To some people a small problem might be a huge one and to others it may still seem like a tiny issue. This is where the ideology of perception and psychology of the human mind comes in. Now you may wonder what does this exposition have anything to do with reading and my childhood, but there is an entire story behind this.
You see, the reason people have hobbies is because no one is content only doing the specific assigned task or work in their lives whether that is job-related work or a homework assignment. Even though education and our careers are an important part of an individual’s life, they do not and should not consume the entirety of his or her personality. That is when we develop hobbies and try to do stuff that we don’t often do and try out new things. These hobbies also differ from person to person and then again provide a momentary way out for the individual from their normal, fast-paced life. Think of it like a change of scenery if must.
This is why reading was one of my very first hobbies. As a child I was always looking for something different, something new or out-of-the-ordinary. This was the reason for my inquisition. As a child I would always question things or actions or words I saw and heard. I could not seem to be at ease with everything that was around me. This was definitely because of the lack of knowledge you have as a child and definitely that discomfort that surrounds you because everyone treats you like a child. However I was not someone to back down. I would question things my elders would say, I would even question things that established people would not have the answer to and even though this sounds a little disrespectful, but as a child I could not care less.
As a child being thrust into an imperfect family with arguments, fights and violence you often find a way out. Reading books was the way out for me. I have never been ashamed to tell this to people that even though I did not have the best childhood because no one likes being bullied, and beaten, and being the odd one out, reading has always helped me through it. I actually would not care much about the book but I would care more for its ability to sweep me away from the harsh reality into an alternate universe.
“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.”
– Alberto Manguel
I was that child who would rather read a book than go and play with other children partially because often I would not fit in and even though I do not like to complain about this but as I grew up I found out that being different was fun. Reading was the key to everything that I knew as a child and even now it does not fail to surprise me. You see reading as a child altered so many perceptions that I had of this universe. It made me think differently and on top of that it gave me the answers that I needed so as to I did not have to rely on other people a lot. In fact it gave me the knowledge and the power to answer the people that would often question me. I also wrote about this previously in How Reading Changes Your Perspective.
Reading is like the North Star that follows you to edge of the world and no matter how complicated it gets, when you still look up to the sky you get to see it and its light guides you to unopened doors, valleys that man has not ventured in and stories that invigorate the human mind and soul and after a worthy journey you still end up seeing nothing but an atom of the bigger picture. Reading gives you this eye for observation and details, you tend to notice things that you thought were non-existent, you tend to think and contemplate about things in a completely altered manner and above all that you gain knowledge and you become a better person. This is also the reason why I instigate other people to let their children read and develop it as a positive habit. There is more to this is Starting Them Young.
As a child I would often hear from people that books are just fiction. They are just stories written by expectant dreamers. That books distance you from the reality and practicality of the real world. My answer to such people is that even though there are multiple genres of books that you can read, in my reading journey so far, books have done the opposite for me. They have only brought me closer to the truth and reality rather than making me distant from it. They have given me a sense of living that I did not know existed and have given me stories to tell and adventures of my own. They had already given me a hint of life before it actually hit me because after all I was the child in the corner with her head lost in a book. And now when something happens I can clearly see how it is connected and how all connections meet at one junction.
Moreover often at times you need a time out from your own story. Books were the perfect resource for me in this matter. To be engrossed in another person’s story or to see how chances unfolded for a specific character gave me the opportunity to be someone beyond one character, beyond one personality and as a young adult I can see how different characters have led me to have diverse interests in my life. These characters have given me endless opportunities of being a better person than myself and to think of others before myself. And even though it is said that actions speak louder than words, for me both are irreplaceable for words alone are just another story and actions alone are nothing but silent words.
A pen can change a life and a heart can change a soul.