I started this blog the fall after I graduated from college. At this particular point in my life, I found myself at a crossroads and without the slightest idea which way to turn, what step to take, or what I wanted to find at the end of the road. Everything in my life was under construction or demolition, and the only thing I knew for certain was that I couldn’t turn back no matter how badly I wanted to. There was only forward, but which forward?
The only thing in my life that was stable was my bookshelf. I hadn’t rearranged it in months, and I knew exactly where every cherished copy was. I had purged the shelves earlier in the summer so all that remained was what was necessary and loved, or what was exciting and new. Nothing trivial or lukewarm was left. There was a specific shelf of to-be-read (though certainly not the only TBR on the wall) that I resolved to finish… at some near time. The shelves spanned the wall across from my bed, so I went to sleep every night with them standing sentry, and they were the first thing I saw in the morning. A promise, a wish, a dream allowed to linger and not die with the dawn.
Depression had pulled me away from my once voracious reading habits over the summer of 2017. I read a mere three books those three months, because often I couldn’t bring myself to concentrate long enough. It was easier to lie on the couch and stare into the vacuum of daytime television and nighttime films and commercial break social media. The autumn came, and my life changed, though not in a way that I expected. Instead of leaving those beloved yet neglected shelves behind, I was trapped at home with them as I struggled to find a job. I felt their stare as keenly as if every character in them had sprung to life and sat watching me from the perch of the shelf, wondering what I would do next or when I would come back. Slowly, I began to pick them up again, to turn their pages, to tumble into their unreal worlds.
One rainy weekend in early October that year, spent lounging in bed with cats and tea and pattering rain and a silly dime novel, I sat up and thought, “Oh, there she is,” I had, in the pages of the novel, found my book self.
It was the self that was not preoccupied with building a “real” life. It was the one that existed only when I was entirely engrossed in a novel, when every care in the world fell away and all that existed was this world inside this novel. That Abigail, that self, does not exist in the real world. She only exists in novels, but she exists in every novel I open. She is unburdened, carefree, at ease. She lives and breathes with the characters, walks in their towns and meadows and forests, tags along in their adventures. When the novel closes, she vanishes until the next one opens. She is at once real and imaginary. She is at once me and not. Whatever she is, she allows “real world” me to catch a break, to go into the backroom and rest, to piddle about peacefully while my eyes and mind are distracted with the pages, and when my book self is gone, my real self comes back more at ease and more mindful than she was before. I find the strength to get through the day, I have answers I didn’t have before, I have courage I lacked.
This blog is for the misty space that is my book self and my real self, where the worlds and adventures that my bookshelf experienced can be analyzed and picked apart by my real self. It is to keep my mind engaged in literature and writing, and to explore more of my book self.
I hope you’ll read along and maybe, along the way, our book selves will meet.