Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Not with someone but with something. I do. I remember it so clearly that it feels like I conjured it up. I was five. My English teacher had just started to teach us how to read and to make it exciting she decided to take us to the school library. She told us that we had the whole 40 minutes of the class time to read any book we wanted to, but we had to talk about it for a minute in the next class. Several of my classmates were very excited, but some weren’t happy as they couldn’t just slack off. Me? I was mostly ambivalent about it. I liked the idea of it being my choice as to what to read, but I wasn’t a big fan of having to speak in front of everyone.
I wandered around the shelves trying to find a book that seemed interesting but was easy enough to understand without much effort. My father had recently told me the story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, which I had liked a lot, so when I discovered a book called “Tales from 1001 Nights”, I was excited too. I sat down to read it and lost track of time, the words on the page ensnaring me and transporting me to magical worlds with every story. I couldn’t finish it before the period was over, so as soon as I went home that day, I asked my father to buy me that book. The second the book was in my hands, I picked the story up right where I left it off and read it till I finished it, late at night. I’d been so enamoured with the book that it had entirely slipped from my mind to prepare a presentation.
Since then, my love for reading has been the one true constant throughout my life. When I got teased endlessly and felt insecure, it was books that told me that it was okay to feel bad about my flaws as long as I also knew my strengths. When I went through puberty and was lonely, stories from other people who felt like me made me feel less alone in this world. Each time I feel sad, confused, or overwhelmed, I know that books will always be able to comfort me. I knew they’d always be able to whisk me away to other magical worlds, far away from my problems. I laughed with the characters and cried when they did too. Some (my parents) may say that by reading for escapism and living vicariously through fictional characters, I’m avoiding my responsibilities in the real world and that I’m a coward. But without those fantasies, I wouldn’t have survived.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve also learned to appreciate the art of storytelling not just in novels but also via movies, music, television and comics. The medium has stopped mattering for me. Every time I watch an HBO show, I see myself as one of the characters. Every time I listen to “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” I cry my heart out. Over the years, what started as a love for reading has blossomed into a love for stories. Now it’s not just my first love, it’s the love of my life.
I hope it’s one of those loves that truly lasts a lifetime.