If I wanted to spend the day crying over a sad story I could just turn on the news and watch for five minutes. It’s faster and simpler than burying my head into a dystopian or paranormal novel and diving into a world of fiction and make believe with characters who don’t really exist but will inevitably infuriate me all the same. To be fair though, if they would just do what I tell them to while I’m screaming at my book like a crazy person their lives would go so much smoother!
Unlike my family I absolutely cannot handle scary movies at all! I’m twenty two years old but when you put me in the room with a scary movie I instantly turn into a five year old who just got lost in the supermarket and can’t find her mom. Also a spider, that’ll do the trick too. *cue the shuddering* Now books, on the other hand, are more than sufficient enough for me to get my adrenaline pumping without giving me nightmares for the rest of my life. I’ve been reading books and crying over characters since I was a stubborn little kid, deciding that I was going to learn how to read or so help me I would die trying. So yes, in case you were wondering I have always been overdramatic. In the same category as the scary movies, I can’t handle sad movies and call me crazy but there’s a really big difference between seeing something horrible occur and reading it. The difference between seeing someone die in a movie and reading about it.
And like I said I get plenty of scary, sad stories out of the news, out of the world around me, out of life and yet, here I am right now, sobbing and bawling my eyes out over the death of another fictional character as I type this. Ask any book lover and they’ll tell you it’s the books that rip your heart out of your chest and stomp on it, leaving you an inconsolable wreck for a given period of time depending on the severity, that we love and obsess over proudly like the true bookworms that we are. Judge me if you will. Honestly, just think about it. I can’t tell you how many times someone’s recommended a book to me or I’ve recommended a book to somebody without informing said person that this book is probably going to cause them emotional anguish and frustration. “Of course, you should read this book, you’re going to love it! It’s the best book I’ve ever read!” It just never occurred to me that you would want to know the guy dies in the end. Should I have mentioned that?
All the same we just continue to torture ourselves, reading these books, becoming emotionally involved, sobbing and crying on the floor for hours when it’s finished. Because when I start reading a new book I’m not just reading about a character, I BECOME that character. I obsess over that character and their life and the stupid things they do and say and the brilliant things they do that make me puff out my chest with pride and squeal with delight. I become a part of an adventure that I take very seriously! I become a person with courage and bravery and I can do stupid things that I’d never do in real life! I cry when my favorite character dies. I celebrate when they succeed, overcome, find true love. I honestly believe that books are wonderful for so many reason, one of those reasons being that they reveal so much about our capacity and ability to empathize, to fall in love with a character based on their thoughts, actions, and words without ever being to see what they look like physically. Even with the ones that make us mad, I think it’s a lot to harder to judge or despise someone, i.e. the character, when you know so much about their story and why they act the way that they do. Just imagine if we applied that to reality, to the employee who was rude to you when you ordering lunch today or the person who cut you off in traffic, or the mean girl at your school. Imagine if you could read their story in a book and you know every pain, heartbreak, distraction, and loss that made them do what they did. It would definitely be harder to get mad at somebody who’s speeding to get to their loved one in the hospital.
We have the capability inside of us, to love, to care, and to empathize but the fact that we don’t have to know everything, every detail about the people around us makes it easier for us not to. And the truth of the matter is, it hurts. It hurts to get emotionally involved and allow yourself to care about somebody and understand where they’re coming from. It’s easier just to stomp away, while silently cursing them and assuming they’re the worst person in the world.
For me, reading books is exciting and it makes me happy and allows me to enter new worlds but it’s also a tremendous wake up call for this world. When I’m reading, I’m not just some socially awkward introvert struggling to express her own feelings, and even when I’m writing. I am powerful and confident. And when the stories that I’m reading break my heart, I thank God that I am human and that I am capable of loving and having compassion for other people. And I cry over fictional deaths because it is so, so worth it! Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go find another book to obsess over!