There’s a map tucked away in the pages of a book. It sits on my shelf and has done so ever since I was thirteen. The places on the map aren’t real, they’re imaginary places, walked upon by fictitious characters who seem all too real. I used to travel to these places in my mind, exchanging my mundane existence for a more worldly experience.
Before I knew anything about empowerment and mental strength, I would run across the school courtyard, bumping into other kids because I was too afraid to look up to see where I was going. I remember running to class in an agitated state because I didn’t want to be late. Can you imagine? The fear of drawing attention to myself kept me in a constant state of fear and self-confinement.
Why was I like that? Probably a combination of teenage insecurities, anxieties and lack of self confidence.
Something in me changed when a friend of mine handed me a book to read. Bound in a torn and over-handled cover, the book was old and grimy. I refused to read such a book! But I borrowed it anyway, under the false pretense that I would read it.
This lasted a few days because the next week, I had to take part in silent reading. Reluctantly, I fished the book out of the bottom of my bag and opened it up to the first page. It was one of those classic fantasy stories about knights and swords swept up in a tale of adventure and friendship. But for a girl like me, it was the first time I had read a Sword and Sorcery book. I took to it like an old friend.
The book details the journey of a girl who disguises herself as a boy so that she can become a knight.
What did the book teach a teenager like me, who was afraid of my own shadow?
The morning after I had finished reading the book, I got out of bed and went for a run. It was the first run I’d done in a whole year. That moment was significant because I remember feeling good about myself, like I could achieve anything I wanted. From that moment on, I started valuing my goals and holding myself accountable for achieving them.
I wouldn’t say that the change was instant, rather, it was more of a slow and gradual change. Whenever I found myself friendless, I would start to seek out friends. If I wanted to change jobs, I would start by teaching myself new skills.
In my experience, a good book can rewire the neurological pathways of a teenager. It can heal, encourage and empower. A good book can inspire us to change our destinies and restore faith in ourselves.
This is why a trip to the library feels like a dig deep down in an excavation site. What treasure will I find inside a book that doesn’t appear as it seems?