If you want to feel infinite

A very heartfelt explananation of how Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks of being a Wallflower' made me feel... brace yourselves (its quite long, but worth it)
"Charlie's not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent, yet socially awkward, Charlie is a wallflower, standing on the threshold of his life whilst watching everyone else live theirs."

This was exactly the blurb I read a few months ago, that made me pick up Stephen Chbosky's The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, a phenomenal book that I can truly say has had a great impact on me as a person. The book has helped me to understand myself in many ways and continues to do so in a different form, every time I pick it up and re-read it.

Honestly, re-reading the blurb over and over again, you could actually replace Charlie's name with mine because his character is an identical description of how I am, and probably always will be; shy, introspective, (somewhat) intelligent, yet (extremely) socially awkward. I had been looking for a diagnosis of what exactly was wrong with me, and why exactly I found most social situations excruciating, and I had finally found one: Wallflower. Yes I know it might be a little cliché, romanticising introversion and all, but being categorised as a wallflower made me feel like being the way I am was actually normal for once; beautiful, like a flower. I know this book is extremely popular with regards to teen fiction, and there are probably going to be hundreds of other kids writing essays on this exact topic with the exactly the same experience as me (resulting in my lack of originality points). With this in mind, I tried for days to figure out how to make you understand how this book made me feel, maybe with a little humour or wit. But I have decided to be myself and to stick with the truth. The simple and beautiful truth that I have learnt because of this book.

"I have finished To Kill A Mockingbird. It is now my favourite book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read another book."

This was one of the first things Charlie said that stuck out to me when reading the book, it made me immediately realise (after only 8 pages) how strikingly similar I was to him. This was kind of the point where I consciously decided I was going to love this book, because I had found someone (however fictional) that related to me, even if it wasn't on as deep a level as I would've liked. I usually have the exact same reaction as Charlie after reading a book. I decide it is my favourite book of all time, not because it is, but because everyone else thinks it is a great book, or because my English teacher recommended it and described it as 'life changing'. But never actually because it makes me feel different or great inside. This is one thing about me that changed when I read this book. I decided it was my favourite book of all time, not because of anyone else in the world. But because of me. Because of how it made me feel. Because I loved it. This is primarily one of the fundamental truths I learnt from this book in my own words: "Don't do anything because of anyone. Do it because of you". Now this doesn't mean incline yourself towards making selfish decisions, it means do things because they are what you feel, not because of what anyone else thinks. Another reason why I love this book so unconditionally, I had understood and grasped the message, after only 8 pages. What else is a writer's dream, if not to communicate with his reader and make them understand what he so fervently understands?

However convenient or coincidental it may seem, I feel like something directed me to this book right when I would need it the most. I was at a point where I was really struggling with my wallflower personality and felt like I was slowly wilting every day. Like Charlie's middle school friends, mine were also moving on and finding different forms of themselves whilst I was just me, standing on the threshold of my life, and watching everyone else live theirs. I was just really afraid to step over it, because of reasons I still don't understand. I decided it was just the way I was wired; a wallflower. And I would continue to wait at the metaphorical wall like wallflowers do, until someone was nice enough, and brave enough to ask me to dance. Sometimes when  I would get tired of waiting for life to pick me up, I would pick up my book and ask myself "what would Charlie do?". Every time, the book gave me the same simple answer. Simple. Charlie got up, off of the wall, into the middle of the dance floor and danced by himself regardless of what people thought, and eventually they joined him. He put aside his fears of judgement for the first time at that football game and did what he felt. He didn't feel like being alone anymore, he felt like having someone who understood, and because of acting on his impulses for once in his life, he got double what he asked for. He got two people who understood. Thus the second truth I learnt from this book, however similar or even identical it may be to the first: "Do what you feel". Having recently started sixth form, I am still trying to apply this to my current situation and am finding it a little difficult, but I have concluded; if Charlie grew enough confidence to do so, then so can I. So will I.

This book also gave me the one piece of advice that I now use to conquer my ever present fear of what people think. Before I came across this book I usually always held myself back from saying what I really felt, because I thought 'well, what if people don't care what I think or feel?'. I realised that was exactly how Charlie felt, that was exactly what held him back.

"Charlie don't you get it? I can't feel that. It's sweet and everything but it's like you're not even there sometimes. It's great you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder? What if they need arms or something like that? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours. You just can't... You have to do things."

I realised I had to do things. I couldn't just live life being quiet and listening to other people's voices. I had to make my own voice heard. I had to do things. I figured with the way I was, people probably felt about me, exactly the same as they felt about Charlie. Like I wasn't even there. Of course I couldn't really blame people for feeling that way, after all it was my own fault for not doing things. Most of my teachers probably didn't even realise I was in their classes because of my lack of active participation. Because I was being a 'sponge and not a filter', soaking everything in quietly instead of letting my thoughts back out for the world to hear. This is every wallflowers problem. We listen and we rarely speak our voices for others to listen to us. We don't do what we want or feel, instead we heed to the still small voice in our heads telling us that it doesn't matter what we want or what we feel. Thus the third and final truth I have learnt from this book, it has now developed into being my mantra, put plainly in not my own, but Sam's words: "I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out who I really am". For me this can be as simple as sharing my opinion on a subject in class, not because of anyone, but because I feel so strongly about it. It means finally not having to care about what anyone else thinks because doing what I want feels great.

I know you want to know why this is my favourite book of all time, and how it has made an impact on me, and why I find it interesting and enjoyable. However, I am afraid this is something I don't quite yet know how to explain. Although I cannot describe what exactly this book made me feel, I can tell you it definitely made me feel something. It woke something amazing up inside me that made me want to change something about myself and the world.

It made me feel infinite.

That is exactly what every book should do.


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