Do you love the world you live in?
Maybe your first answer is yes, but then if I asked, if you had other options, other worlds you could choose instead of this one. Well, your answer might change, wouldn’t it?
Or perhaps even before I mentioned your other options, your answer was already no.
And it’s okay if that’s the case, I won’t tell anyone,
this is just a story after all.
When I was young, I would have done anything to live in a different world. From the moment I could understand the basic fundamentals of reading, that’s all I did. That was my way to escape, but it didn’t last forever. At one point or another, I would end up having to put the book down and would always be left feeling disappointed that I was born into this world, instead of one of the ones I read about and loved so dearly.
I spent every spare moment of time where I was not in school or sleeping, with my head buried in a novel. I spent my childhood flying on dragons, dancing among fairy’s, and making friends better than any ones I could make in the real world.
My life was not terrible, but it was hard, and I guess that applies to almost all of us, wouldn’t you agree?
I was quiet, but I was always listening, and what I heard made me long, even more, to be somewhere else. My parents would turn on the news every night, and the horrors of my world, the murdering, kidnapping, and illnesses filled my head and made me sick. And so, I would throw myself into a story where their biggest problem was an evil wizard or angry god, mad someone had stolen his lightning bolt. But in our world, the real monsters well they are human, just like me, just like you. No evil powers, or crazy species, just humans, and maybe that’s the hardest part. Real monsters, the ones in our world, there not that much different from us.
One summer morning, about twenty-something years ago, I pulled my long scarlet curls into a knot above my head and pushed the library door open with the toe of my rainboot. The familiar bells tune danced into my ears as I took in the same library I had been going to since I was eight and had practically grown up in.
After all, what is reading, if not finding a home in a world that is not this one.
“Good morning Maya”
I smiled shyly at the little old librarian standing behind the counter, it was the fourth one to work here since I started coming. I had fallen in love with the small library tucked in the corner of town, only a short car ride from my house. Tucking a loose curl behind my ear I slipped between the bookcases. At Last, I felt safe surrounded by my past and future adventures. I trailed my fingers gently over their spines as I walked, marveling as I always did, at how each one held a whole world inside its pages, a whole life.
Paper comes from trees, and then these little inked marks somehow, beyond all reason of the universe, we can understand them, understand these letters and in our minds put them together, letter by letter, block by block, and create an entire universe, an alternate reality where anything can happen. Anything and everything.
I wondered If I would travel to Paris that day, and gaze at the city from the view of the Eiffel tower, or perhaps go running on a horrifying and yet exhilarating chase through the depths of the jungle. Maybe I would meet someone just like me, or not like me at all. It didn’t really matter, some days Id just grab a book at random, I had almost read them all anyway, but I enjoyed re-reading them, it was simply like returning to a place I had once loved. Like going on vacation or just returning home.
I smiled as I pulled one of the books off the shelves, it was Little women, one of my favorites. I hugged the story to my chest and smiled without hesitation thinking of the last time I had read it. It was just short of a year ago, and I couldn’t even remember how many times I had read it before that.
“You going to read that?”
I jumped so high at the voice so close to me that I dropped my precious book onto the floor.
It landed with a thump and my racing heart stumbled as I quickly knelt to pick the book up. Two hands beat me to it, and I looked up into the face of a tall boy, all long limbs and round harry potter glasses.
My eyes widened as I realized I was face to face with a total stranger. Coming to my senses I heaved a breath and stood quickly, fidgeting with my hands in a way I hoped was not noticeable.
Okay, I admit It was definitely noticeable but let’s get on with the story.
“I’m sorry”, he rushed out passing me the book quickly. “I um, I didn’t mean to scare you, I thought you knew I was there.”
I contemplated his words and then slowly shook my head,
“No, I uh, I was really caught up in my thoughts, I didn’t notice you.”
He combed his long dark hair out of his eyes and smiled weakly.
“So, you going to try it? I won't spoil it for you but one of the sisters totally dies, and Jo is actually the best character ever written.”
I felt my mouth drop open and then closed again. And then without thinking I blurted,
“How could you? If I had not read it, which of course I have. You would have totally just spoiled it. Spoiling books should be a crime, and, I added because why wouldn’t I? Beth is definitely the best character ever written.”
I felt my face burning fiercely at my sudden burst of conversation. The stranger’s wide eyes twinkled and then he burst into laughter. It was loud, and sort of squeaky, but the sound was so…real. He slapped his palms over his face to try and contain the sound, not that it helped much. I tried to turn away from him quickly, but I knew he caught the smile claim my face before I got the chance.
After he seemed to compose himself enough, I heard him clear his throat again.
“So, you love reading then?”
At this question, I did not even bother hiding my smile, after all, it is no good to lie about the things we love anyways, for they cannot be easily hidden.
“More than anything. I would do anything to never have to leave my stories.” I whispered quietly, just loud enough for him to hear.
I expected him to smile with me, but instead a mask of seriousness faded across his features ever so slowly. He took a couple of steps toward me and feeling slightly uncomfortable I took a small step back. I watched him as he reached not to the bookcase beside us, but instead to the bag on his back and pulled out a book. He then grabbed a pen from behind his ear, which I had not noticed before that moment had been there. And scribbled something quickly down before passing the book into my stunned hands, still clutching Little Women.
A spark of realization lit in his eyes, and he quickly checked the watch on his arm.
Cursing he raked his hand through his hair, spinning away from me quickly,
I had thought then that he would just hurry out without another word. A total mystery. But instead, he said something that would change my life. He stopped and turned, gazing at me behind a small smile.
“All the adventures you’ve gone on in your stories, there beautiful and magical. But there comes a point where you're going to have to stop going on adventures in other worlds, and instead, go on one in this one.
You might just find this world, he gestured around him, is even more magical than you could imagine. And filled with,” he paused, “so many possibilities.”
I did not have any words in my throat to reply before he turned and hurried out of the store, the bell ringing as the door swung shut softly behind him.
My head spun, as his words rattled in my head. Suddenly remembering the book, he had given me I carefully placed Little Women on the bookcase beside me and flipped open the first page of the mysterious book of a stranger.
I had no idea what it would be, but I figured perhaps a classic, The Grapes of Wrath or To Kill A mockingbird.
However, the book was empty.
No title, no chapters. Just hundreds of empty pages.
And that is our lives when it comes down to it, isn’t it? hundreds of empty pages just waiting to be filled.
Endless opportunities, endless possibilities for adventures just waiting to happen.
It was not until I got home that night and was skimming through the stranger's odd empty book once again when a slip of paper fell out from the inside. It was only then that I remembered he had written something quickly before giving me the book in the first place.
On the slip of paper, there was only one message,
Here is a place to write about all the adventures you are going to have. There is a whole flawed but beautiful world out there, never forgets when your reading other people’s stories, you mustn’t ever forget to live your own. And make it just as magical as the ones you so love to read.
I never would have guessed that in all my years reading stories, that the one that would change my life the most was an empty notebook from a stranger who reminded me of all that I had forgotten.
You see maybe you feel like you do not love this world because it is flawed.
It is filled with tragedies but also with magic and miracles. Our world is flawed, but if it weren’t, well it wouldn’t be as stunning as it is now, would it?
If everything is perfect, then nothing is special, nothing is important, nothing has meaning.
And so, this is only a story, but maybe it will help you realize that the most important story you will ever hold in your hands, has been inside you the whole time.
You’re writing it every day; imagine all the adventures you’re going to have.
But then again,
this is just a story.