Have you ever read a book that’s exactly what you needed to read in that moment?
It doesn’t matter when it was published, if it’s the next big thing, or if you’re just really behind on the next big thing, but it’s flawless in that moment because if you had read it at any other time in your life it wouldn’t have mean the same thing to you.
My moment came when I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Originally published in 1999, it blew up in popularity due to the film adaptation released in 2012, starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller. I was four years old when it came out, so obviously I wouldn’t have known about it. When I picked it up (because of course I had to read the book before seeing the movie), I felt a bit of guilt because I didn’t want to be “hopping on the bandwagon.”
Stupid, stupid feeling. Don’t ever let anyone guilt you out of a good book because you weren’t there first.
I was a month away from high school graduation, and six credits away from earning my Bachelor’s degree. (Yep, at the same time. That’s the benefit of online classes.) I was six weeks away from seventeen, and was completely and utterly lost. While I was graduating college, what should have taken me another four years, my friends were going to be leaving for their freshmen years. It was a weird situation, and I felt myself pulling away, because already I had nothing to talk about with them: we were in such different places in our lives.
Then, I met Charlie. Broken, dreaming, book-loving Charlie. He’s learning to “participate” in the world, make friends, and experiencing everything that comes with high school. He has a history of mental illness, but he’s trying to get over it. Sometimes he “gets bad again,” but with the help of his friends he tries to pull himself out of his depression and loneliness. His new friends, though, are seniors, graduating at the end of the year. Sound familiar?
The uncertainty, the confusion, and ultimately the impending loss, was so delicately and emotionally portrayed that I couldn’t help but think, “Someone else gets it!” My personal struggle with depression and anxiety and the unknown future was all there, written in words that I couldn’t find myself. Sure, there were a lot of situations where I couldn’t relate to Charlie, because I had never been in the same situation, but there was so much that I could connect with that it didn’t matter.
[Ironically enough, my mom just came over and told me to participate: we have a friend over and I’ve buried myself in music and blogging.]
I know Charlie is just a fictional character, and he only exists in my mind (and every one else who has ever read the book), but he truly did help me through a difficult time. And if I had read Perks a year before, or a year later, he wouldn’t have had the impact on me as he did at that moment, in that month, on that day. I needed to hear his story, and be assured that I wasn’t alone, in that May of 2012.
This is my treasured copy, with my favorite quotes underlined and tabbed:
This is why, when people tell me “it’s just a fictional character,” or “it’s just a book,” or anything of the sort, I don’t get angry at them for being so insolent: I’m sad for them, because whether a person is flesh and bone or just neurons firing in the workings of your imagination, these characters are real. The struggles and emotions are tangible. And I think everyone should have at least one character that they can cling to in the worst of times.
Besides, insanity is a relative term. If someone deems you a little off in the head, just tell them, “You’re just as sane as I am.”