In mid-April I turn 21 (I know: I’m such a baby) and so of course I’m having a 21st birthday party. In true book nerd fashion, my 21st is book-themed and so I’ve spent the last month or so reflecting on what books changed my life throughout my 21 years. I thought to celebrate my 21st coming up I would talk about the 21 lessons I learnt from books in 21 years.
- ‘Don’t hesitate.’ – Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead
I won’t lie: I fell down the vampire hole hard when I was a teenager, with my favourite book series being Vampire Academy. In the original context of the quote it is spoken as a warning against hesitating to kill certain vampires just because they look like old friends/family. Throughout the series the quote grew to mean more to me, to not hesitate to do what’s right, to allow yourself to put yourself before others, to protect those you love. This quote, this lesson was and is still very important to me and is tattooed on the back of my neck like the battle tattoos the main characters have in the series.
- ‘You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.’ – Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
Sometimes loving someone and feeling like you have their best interests at heart doesn’t stop them from doing things you don’t want them to do. Sometimes loving a person isn’t enough, and you have to accept that no matter how hard that may be, and treasure the good things that came with that person.
- ‘Oh, Hazel! This is where it comes from! I know now- something very bad! Some terrible thing- coming closer and closer.’ – Watership Down, Richard Adams
Trust your gut; it warns you for a reason. I put a lot of faith in my instincts and they’ve served me well. Sometimes running is the smart option.
- ‘People go to LA to “find themselves”, they come to New York to become someone new.’ – I Heart New York, Lindsey Kelk
Embrace all the opportunities that life throws at you. You have no idea when things might blow up so take every opportunity you are given because it’s a gift. It might not look like an opportunity at the time, it might even look like a mess, but if there’s nothing else that I have learnt in my life it is to say yes to everything. Learn things, meet people, broaden your horizons, take risks.
- ‘I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.’ – The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Words and knowledge are power: use them wisely. We have been given a great gift: the ability to express one’s self.
- ‘And Manon understood in that moment that there were forces greater than obedience, and discipline, and brutality.’ – Empire of Storms, Sarah J Maas
Just because you’ve been taught one way your whole life doesn’t mean it’s the right way. We were all gifted a brain and a heart; it is our job to use them and question everything we’re told.
- ‘It was all very well being a strong independent woman, but it was hard when boys’ confusing behaviour kept making you lose your focus.’ – Am I Normal Yet?, Holly Bourne
A significant other is not the solution to fixing mental health. I’ve read a lot of books as a young teenager where the main female character is going through some kind of depression and it is miraculously cured by falling in love. As someone with severe anxiety who is in a committed relationship I can tell you that is not the case. Mental health requires a lot of work and support and while a significant other is a nice distraction it is still a distraction and not a solution. I’ve learnt the hard way that the only person who can help you is yourself and that you have to be willing to do the work.
- ‘He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man. He that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.’ – Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare
Life is a literal contradiction. Beatrice talks about hating beards on men but that a man without a beard is a boy, and she isn’t interested in boys either. Like Beatrice, people and life flip flop all the time and I know from experience that you become a lot less stressed when you just accept that.
- ‘There is one fairy who has helped her friends achieve their dreams.’ – Felicity Wishes, Emma Thomson
Helping others is important; being compassionate is important. I often find myself solving my own problems by helping others with theirs. Stepping away and getting some other perspective is important to broadening your horizons.
- ‘Failure is never getting hurt. Because that means you’ve not done anything you cared about.’ – How Hard Can Love Be, Holly Bourne
You can’t force relationships with people, no matter how much you might love them. Loving people is worth taking risks for; you’ll get hurt- a lot, but the people who are willing to make the same risks back are worth it.
- ‘“We need a place,” she said, “just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it.”’ – Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
You don’t have to go anywhere to have an adventure; adventures are only limited to your own imagination.
- ‘Everyone makes choices in life. Some bad, some good. It’s called living, and if you want to bow out, then go right ahead. But don’t do it halfway. Don’t linger in whiner’s limbo.’ – Poison Study, Maria V Snyder
You’re the only one who can decide what’s right for you; you’re the only person who can save you. If you don’t want to be saved no one else can do it for you.
- ‘To stand in front of a person who is your whole world and be told you are not enough. You are not the choice. You are a shadow to the person who is your sun.’ – King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard
Even with your best intentions at heart, even if you love someone, a person can still let you down. People are people, we all make mistakes and it sucks, particularly if you’ve invested a lot into a person. But that’s just people.
- ‘Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
You are only limited by your imagination.
- ‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Sometimes we’re surrounded by rubbish people because we think we’re rubbish. No one deserves to be made miserable by the people they love.
- ‘Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.’ – Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Ignorance breeds fear and hatred.
- ‘The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. And the more he gave away the more delighted he became.’ – The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
The old classic lesson of ‘sharing is caring’.
- ‘I turned my nightmares into fireflies and caught them in a jar.’ – Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor
You control what you’re afraid of and how to deal with it. Fear can be beautiful at times.
- ‘It’s when I’m alone that the doubt sets in.’ – Entangled, Cat Clarke
Our minds are our own worst enemy.
- ‘No matter where you go or what you do to distract yourself, reality catches up with you eventually.’ – The Duff, Kody Keplinger
Escapism doesn’t always come in the form of drugs and alcohol, but it can still be just as dangerous to one’s self. Running doesn’t solve anything.
- ‘I’m beginning to realize that things don’t turn out the way you want them to. And sometimes, when they don’t they can turn out just a little better.” – Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta
You learn more from failing more than succeeding. Failing means you’re a step closer to what’s right for you.
What a literary journey my life has been on! I don’t know about you but I’m pretty excited to see what else I learn from books.