When I was young, I was not the most socially active child one could come across. Being an only child, I mostly kept to myself, and was very shy. I was incredibly reticent to talk to my other classmates, and did not invest much in making friends with my peers, especially during my formative years. As time went by, I was able to make a few friends, but lacking transportation and living slightly further out of town than everyone else, I did not have the means to socialize as often as the rest of my classmates outside of school. Cooped up in the house all day, I would start to wonder what else was out there – what the rest of the world was like.
My parents, being forward-thinking people, started me on reading when I was about five or six years old, and I took to it immediately. In between the more childish books – licensed fiction of cartoon characters such as Garfield, and some young adult novels as the years went by, such as Goosebumps and The Hardy Boys – I was fortunate enough to be given some of the classics, like several of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and H.G. Wells novels. I also read some of Mark Twain’s famous books, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as fantasy books such as The Chronicles of Narnia.
I simply couldn’t get enough of them; of course, while I would be far too young to handle Tolstoy or Ayn Rand, I absolutely loved the more fantastical tales in classic science fiction, with books like The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine. I found myself imagining what I would do in those thrilling situations – how it would feel to be invisible, or to go forward into the future with a magical machine, dreaming about what I might find there. I envisioned myself entering Narnia, and wondered about the adventures I could have in that magical place.
As I kept reading, I was able to learn more and more about some of the great protagonists of classic fiction – I identified with the thrill of mystery shared by Sherlock Holmes, whilst recognizing Tom Sawyer’s adolescent insecurities in myself. These books showed me how I could feel comfortable being me, and even giving me the courage to try new things and dare to take a chance. At school, I started to overcome my shyness and engage my classmates, giving myself more opportunities to make friends and share my love of these books with them. We would find many subjects with which we had common ground, and soon I felt like I belonged where I was.
With the help of the books that I read as a child, and continue to read to this day, I have been able to overcome my childish shyness and form myself into a confident, assured, attractive individual. The lessons I learned and the characters I identified with showed me that it was okay to be who you were, and that no one could take that away from you.