There are so many things that my mom taught me growing up that I couldn’t even name them all if I tried. Empathy, the importance of failure, fractions and times tables and how to make pumpkin pie. But most importantly, she taught me one thing that I will forever be grateful for learning, and that was to never stop reading. And despite how simple and basic a lesson it seems, compared to all the others, it has changed me as a person.
Seriously, read. Read Hemingway and Salinger and Fitzgerald. Read Vonnegut and Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Read Kerouac and Baldwin and Joyce and Woolf and Plath and Nobokov. These authors and their work are famous for a reason. They reveal fundamental truths of generations, universal sufferings and longings. Connect to the characters in these stories, live through them and with them. Fall in love with Robert Jordan, suffer with Holden Caulfield and Quentin Compson.
If you do not read these classics, then read anything else. It doesn’t matter what, but read your heart out. Read about love and loss and heartbreak and pain. Read about things that hurt you, things you fear, things you believe or don’t believe in. Our generation is so literature indifferent that we are untouched.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the beauty of literature is that “you discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” I wrote a letter once to one of my favorite authors thanking him for the beauty of his novel and understanding it brought me. Similarly to Fitzgerald himself, he said that “the great consolation of literature is that it reminds us we are not alone. We are never alone.”
I will not be an English or Lit major, but I will never stop reading and writing. Because to me, there is nothing more important in the world than the truth you can find in writing, and there is nothing more powerful than discovering something about yourself in something that is not real, or finding a piece of yourself within the lines on a page.
So do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing, and feel as alive as you think you need to feel, but never stop reading. Because there are things you can learn from the pages of a book that will teach you so much more tan you will ever learn from real life. Just like there are things that can hurt you that you can’t see with the naked eye, these are the things that can bruise you in different ways.
Tragedies and truths are forever preserved in the pages of novels, in ink on paper. And these characters and their experiences are immortalized in a way in which humans and our experiences will never be, no matter how many people remember you when your gone, no matter how much you think you exist in the spirit of the earth or your love and loss linger in the soul of the world.
People will desert you, but characters never will. Live and breathe their stories, and you too will be never be alone. You will belong.