if you haven't read the book, you have at least maybe probably heard its name before: "the perks of being a wallflower" by stephen chbosky. it was a teen anthem in novel form in the nineties - you know, when young adult fiction was still respectable. recently it was adapted into a movie, both screenplay and direction in the hands of mr. chbosky himself. it was done beautifully. if you have not had the privilege of being exposed to one or both forms of this same story, then i suggest it wholeheartedly.
i think everyone who reads the book is able to take away something personal to them and their own story. i felt like i could identify with charlie, the protagonist, in many ways.
he, if you haven't gathered already, is the wallflower the title is referring to. a high school freshman, charlie is nervous, reserved, friendless, and has a past of emotional instability. just as the story is reminding me how much of a hellhole high school really is, things begin looking up for charlie when he meets new friends - senior friends - who take charlie under their wings and introduce him to all the new experiences adolescent life has to offer.
although charlie opens up and little by little overcomes his shyness, he is still the ever observant and internalizing being that i know all too well.
there is this conversation that takes place in the book between charlie and his favorite teacher:
"Do you always think this much, Charlie?"
"Is that bad?" I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.
"Not necessarily. It's just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life."
"Is that bad?"
that is absolutely, perfectly, unquestionably me. i have stated before that i am the very definition of an introverted person. for the longest time of my life the first and only observation others made upon meeting me was that i was a quiet girl. and well, that is pretty accurate, mostly. unless i am around one of the handful of individuals that have been patient long enough to know the real me, i am very reserved. especially if i am in a group of people, and even more so if those people are strangers. you may very well forget i am even there. i am pretty sure i have improved in my age. any shyness seen in me now was that times forty when i was younger. and, well, i'm friendly and all. i know how to make decent small talk, and be nice and everything. but, just for example's sake, my senior year of high school i was voted in as "most shy." it's not really necessary, i don't think, to explain how horrific that it was for that category to even exist, and how mortifying it was to be voted for it.
my shyness was rivaled only by my awkward appearance/sense of style
grade 11, circa 2005 - emo eyeliner/black hair combo ftw!
but here's the thing: sometimes it's hard for me to recognize that i am not really engaging. let me explain what i mean. i can be in a group setting with people who i am enjoying very much. i will listen to all the things they say, all the jokes made. i will smile and/or laugh at all the appropriate times - and not because i should, but because i really am smiling and/or laughing at the funny and/or lovely things being said. i feel really engaged, you know? i am immersed in the moment. but what i sometimes forget in the moment is this: just because i feel connected to others does not mean that they feel connected to me, too. they cannot read my thoughts and know i am fully there in mind and spirit as well as body. and, well, i also do something else. i will listen to multiple conversations at a time. since technically i am not in a conversation, i will often focus on two or three. not in a creepy, eavesdropping way. they are right there, aloud for all to hear. but i will listen to these interactions, and i will watch the people having them. i can see when someone feels uncomfortable, or tired. i can see when someone feels uncertain, or insecure. i can see when someone has a lot of things on his or her mind. i can see when someone is being sincere. it's the way their faces make expressions, especially their eyes, or little movements of their mouths. it's the way they move themselves, the way they hold their arms and such. and so, i can walk away from an event and feel like i experienced so many things, and as others see me go they wonder if i had any fun. i know they wonder this, because i am often asked it.
college freshman, circa 2007 - age 19; just, you know, sitting in a chair in the pool by myself.
college sophomore, circa 2008 - age 20
there is a line in the book, spoken by charlie's friend, patrick: "He's a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
in my lifetime of standing by the wayside, i have noticed a few things about people and life in general. and those things are like this:
-people who are upset about something usually don't want input or opinions from other people. they mostly just want someone to listen. unless they specifically ask otherwise.
-if you smile enough at a seemingly grumpy person and are nice enough, then they often loosen up. sometimes not, but it's always worth a try.
-if someone is sitting by themselves at a party or event, it's not because they want to be alone. if they wanted to be alone, they wouldn't be there at all. saying hi to them, and maybe sitting with them will almost assuredly make them feel really good.
-remembering names is not a difficult thing to do. people are always saying "i am so bad at remembering names." well, everyone says that. but i don't think that is really a thing, unless you are a person who has actual memory problems in your brain. i have a secret to share: if you tell yourself and the new person you meet that you will remember their name, you will. saying that you are bad at names is an excuse to forget. use that persons name a few times in conversation. it just works. but you have to choose to make it work. sometimes you will still forget, or accidently get it wrong. but it happens far less.
-everybody holds the immense power of making another person feel stupid or judged. being silly and playful and slightly sarcastic, in the appropriate degree and context, are fine things to be. but it's really easy to push someone too far. also, attitude and tone of voice can be dangerous weapons when not observed carefully. i have seen so many people ask questions or answer questions wrong, and then made out to be stupid for asking/answering wrong. why do people do this? i don't know. it doesn't make anyone feel good.
-often, people don't try very hard to makes outsiders feel included. it's common for people to be nice initially, but have absolutely no follow through. and as long as a person feels comfortable and has companionship, there is very little motivation to reach out to new people. i don't understand this, either.
there is more, i am sure. i have been observing for a long, long time.
anywho, i don't really know if i had just one point or lots of points to share today. but maybe you should read the book. it's a really good book.
24th birthday, may 5, 2012 - pike place market
***“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
more quotes from the book i like a lot:
“It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.”
“I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. Maybe that is what makes people 'participate.'”
“I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has.”
“You can't just sit there and put everyone's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things.”
“It's strange to describe reading a book as a really great experience, but that's kind of how it felt.”