Perks of being a fast reader

30 Nov

On Monday I got an email from the library saying a book I requested was ready. On Tuesday I picked up Perks of Being a Wallflower. I finished it at 12:02am Wednesday night.

I remembered reading a review of this book in high school and being interested. After totally forgetting about it, the movie came out and it looks great. I decided I must read it before I see it, and then it appeared on my request list at the library.

Even though I had a million things to do this week and I probably should have thought a little bit about that upcoming stats exam, I read the book in two days. I stayed up late and read during lunch. I haven’t done that enough this semester. I forget that I love to read sometimes.

Perks, as I’ll call it for short, is a coming of age story about a freshman in high school with some sort of social handicap that unravels throughout the story. As I read I kept thinking of my dear friend Holden Caulfield.

Charlie, the protagonist, was trying to figure out how to be social and how to be in high school. He’s got some pretty heavy issues on his plate. After reading for a while, I’d have to put the book down and remind myself that I’m Shannon and I have Shannon’s problems, not Charlie’s problems. I was just so into the story.

Perks reminded me of how it actually felt to be in high school. It’s only been 5 and a half years, but I didn’t realize how much I forgot. The media doesn’t give high school kids a fair shake. Movies and TV shows are the biggest proponents of laughing at high school problems.

This book really took them seriously. Most issues teens have aren’t giant problems. They are lots of smaller things magnified by the hormones and hate that happen in schools. Although it’s not true, it feels like your whole social life hinges on going to one party one time. Missing it for a trip to your grandma’s house is out of the question. Cutting weight for a wrestling meet is worth it, no matter what. Watching a TV show is more important that tomorrow’s quiz. Having a Coach purse or American Eagle jeans is necessary, even if it’s not something you actually like.

I forgot how in high school everything felt like a huge deal. Everything. Every single dance, test, phone call, weekend, IM conversation. It was all earth-shattering important. Perks reminded me that little deals are huge deals and huge deals and catastrophic.

School wasn’t as funny as Mean Girls, as happy as High School Musical or as interesting as the Breakfast Club. It was complicated and pretty awkward. And on the spectrum of experiences, I know mine was a walk in the park compared to so many others.

My friends felt like my whole world and I probably treated my family like crap. Now, it’s my family I talk to all of the time and most of those friends are just photos on my newsfeed. No one understood me, especially my parents. my curfew was too early and I didn’t have a cell phone. I cried about that almost every week. Really.

Most of us grow out of high school and realize the people we want to be friends with make us feel good instead of look good. They are the people who can both listen and talk. The friends who get to know your family and remember your birthday without facebook.

Looking back, I felt like no one understood me or took me seriously. I can say now that I was being crazy dramatic. I know that. But then, it wasn’t dramatic. I did not have a rough life, trust me.

It’s amazing how quickly I forget that feeling of silence and roll my eyes at teenagers pulled up next to me at a stoplight. How frustrating it is to see those kids make bad choices. They know better- they really do. It’s just the blinders that most people wear from 13-18 that don’t let them stop and realize what they do can affect so many other people.

It’s comforting to know that mostly everyone grows out of it. At some point we gain the perspective and realize getting a C on one test one time is not worth crying about. A guy who doesn’t call you back is probably a jerk, and you thank the heavens for letting him weed himself out. In high school, that would have ruined your year.

That’s what breaks my heart when I hear about teen suicide. I wish I could have given each one of those souls a hug. I wish I could have eaten cafeteria lunch with them just one time. I would have told them it’s ok that things are confusing right now. It’s ok that you’re feeling misunderstood. We all did. We all do. But you can hold on for four years. They are the longest and shortest of your life. After high school the world gets so much bigger and better. You are feeling right now so strongly, that you are having trouble grasping later. That’s ok. Just know that people care about you. That feelings changes and people grow. You will too.

I wish I could have understood the world a little more clearly then. I wish I would have been more polite to my parents. I wish I would have cared a little bit more about people outside my immediate daily life. I am so thankful I never battled any thing serious because I can’t imagine that.

Perks of Being a Wallflower reminded me of that delicate time period. It reminded me that even though I had friends, I could talk to people, I was involved and active, that I too felt like Charlie. Looking back, it wasn’t hard. But boy, it felt hard.

I’m sorry this post got so deep and so long. I guess I’m just having a lot of feelings. Let’s all try to be more understanding of people in different life stages than us. Ok?

Have you read anything mind numbing lately? I’m always looking for suggestions.


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