Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Hannah, a Clear Eyes, Full Shelves reader who’s an Actual Teen. She asked us if she could write a guest post (and maybe more!) to practice her writing and share her love of books and reading with a wider audience. As you can imagine, we’re thrilled that she wanted to share her work on CEFS.
Growing up as a bookworm is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, I had the opportunity to live vicariously through my heroes and explore worlds outside of my own reality. However, I could only do that for so long before I started developing highly idealistic views on my own life.
For example, the relative rarity of actual “happily ever afters” is lost on me, and I find myself searching for them—alongside any other adventures I’ve read about—instead of focusing my time on becoming a “grown up.” At 17, I admit I would rather think about my own survival tactics for making it out of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games arena, instead of thinking about which universities I would like to apply to attend. It’s as if because I spent so long immersed in fiction and stories, I generally had trouble surviving in the real world.
Now that I am that bit closer to adulthood I am slightly less extreme. I am proud to say (though slightly embarrassed to admit to doing any of this in the first place) that I no longer leave my window open for Tinkerbell and Peter, or listen to see if any of the grandfather clocks I encounter strike 13, or hunt for the Psammead from The Five Children and It in my back garden. But maybe that is not because I am growing out of it, it might just be that because I read different books now I look for aspects of them in real life, instead of looking for things described in the stories of my childhood.
But, I can see that this habit has nonetheless seeped into my teenage years. My life, which at points seems to be completely dominated by the constant stress and demands of education, is nowhere near as exciting as some of the books I read. And so I escape into novels when I can’t face the piles of schoolwork, and they comfort me in my hours of need.
It became a cycle, the more I read the more I am disappointed with reality, and the more I am disappointed with reality the more I would want to read.
And thanks to Jane Austen, John Green and Sarah Dessen, I now have sky high expectations of romance and relationships, and they are (perhaps) far too unrealistic to ever be met. This brutally came to light quite early on in my teenagehood.
Imagine a 13-year old Hannah going to her first “proper” party. She expected an encounter that least had some similarities to the scenarios described in whichever Cathy Cassidy novel she had devoured prior to the party (probably like Sam and Ginger in Gingersnaps, which was a massive favourite at this period her life), but instead she finds herself stuck talking to various acne-ridden boys about their hopeful acting career/intense love of video games/rant about parents and/or grades.
Instead of setting 13-year old Hannah up for this horrible anti-climax, my beloved novels just made me raise my expectations. And now any boy I encounter will automatically be compared to one of my great fictional loves, and if they don’t measure up to Noah from The Notebook or Wes from The Truth About Forever, I’m not at all interested. Even I can see that this is probably the greatest and best recipe for a future alone as a full-time crazy cat lady.
And I suppose that now I am on the borders of adulthood, I have to make a decision.
Do I continue to naively hope that my life will suddenly turn into my favourite novel, or do I allow myself to grow out of it and settle into a life of bills and shopping lists and comfortable shoes? Is it naive to want to reconcile the fantastical scenarios of my favourite novels with the realities of my impending adulthood?
Perhaps I should stop clinging on to the idea that the books I read are an accurate reflection of the things that real life has to offer me. Then I would stop day dreaming about giving up on school and joining Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus, or hoping for encounters with spirits and ghosts like Suze Simon in The Mediator series by Meg Cabot.
The irony of course, is that I am a lost cause.
Facing the world with this view is like my defence mechanism and I think if I tried to fully dedicate myself to a life without literature and novels to escape into and daydream about, I probably wouldn’t last very long. It is as if through my years of reading I have suddenly found that I have become book loving oxymoron of a person.
Hannah Renton is a 17-year old aspiring writer from London, England. Her love of stories and books originated from her father reading her the Harry Potter books—complete with funny voices for all the characters—when she was about six because she was too little to be able to read them by herself. From then on, she has been reading everything she can get her hands on. Her life’s goal is to write one novel from every genre, and so far she has completed exactly zero, (though she has plenty of ideas). She blames her lack of progress on school work, but in reality it is probably because she has fierce addictions to far too many television shows and spends too much time on Tumblr.
Tumblr: The Problem with Hannah