For most of my life, I thought I knew myself. I knew what I wanted to be and how all of my experiences shaped me, because I could articulate it. However, when my life experiences shifted, everything I claimed to know about myself changed. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t articulate who I was. In my confusion and desperation to return to a sense of normalcy, I turned to books for guidance and clarity.
Through authors who share their stories that resemble our own, I was reminded that we don’t have to innately understand every part of who we are. There is room for growth and time is not constrained to the narrative of what path is normal. Time is adaptable and merciful. It fluctuates with the shifts in our individual and collective experiences.
Over the course of my academic career, my relationship with reading became primarily analytical. When I consumed words about coping with relationships and experiences, analytical rationalism clouded my judgment. The often narrow-minded thoughts we are fed about who we are, and what we are meant to become, isolated my personhood. However, literature’s expansive representation challenges this.
When I began reading for personal exploration, I realized that it was beautiful to have a stranger validate my pain and experiences. More than that, it was transformational to have a stranger articulate everything my mind couldn’t. This realization taught me to approach finding remedies to hurtful experiences with patience. Now, storytelling in literature serves as the foundation of my resilience.
Literature helps us articulate who we are because there are no unrecycled experiences. Everyone has, in some way, persisted. It is through reading about these recycled experiences that my connection to myself and others grows. There is a great sense of intimacy developed through the transformative expression of our shared experiences.
More than this, literature expands our ability to dissect our life experiences so that we can approach solutions and healing with a clear mind. Through reading about the stories of triumph and rebirth, I am able to remove myself from the often emotionally debilitating connection I have to an experience. Vulnerability in literature has helped me become more rational.
I am eternally grateful for authors like Anaïs Nin and Ottessa Moshfegh who have guided me through the transformations I made as an effort to alchemize hurtful situations. I am grateful for those vulnerable enough to share their stories so that we are equipped to brace the inevitable experiences of life.