I grew up in the suburbs and I didn't go out of the house much after my dad left to work for Saudi Arabia. My cousins by then had also left to join their mom in Norway and my sister was years older and didn't really hang out with me then. I was left to my own devices most of the time. The maid, who doubled as my nanny, would play with me now and then but for the most part, I amused myself by creating stories for and about my toys. The rest of the time, you'd find me curled up somewhere reading a book.
When I started school outside our subdivision, I was banned from reading books (outside of school books) --- that's another story --- so as soon as I was out of my mom's eyes, I had a book in hand and walked everywhere in school with one. It's not as if I didn't have friends, in fact, I was strangely popular amongst my schoolmates and was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities. I was often included in school performances and won contests for public speaking quite a few times. In addition to that, I got into fights, played rough and tumble with the boys, ran around school with my skirts flying, in short, I was a regular kid, albeit, a bit of a tomboy. Yet a big part of my time at school was spent with books. Librarians loved me because I read incessantly, helped other people find books, and best of all, organized the shelves without being asked to.
Books were my closest friends, they demanded much of my time but gave back as much. They kept me company, entertained me, calmed my fears and taught me things about the world, even when they made me cry. I was very comfortable with them, they never crowded me or spoke at the same time, two situations that freak me out when I'm with a big group of people. However, there were always a few people who could draw me out and get me to leave my books, at least, for a while. They were kind and funny, genuinely interested in spending time with me, had stories to tell and were willing to listen to mine.
Eventually, it dawned on me how much books and people were alike. Let me give you examples:
- Sometimes, you meet people you can't get enough of. Like books, you want to read them again and again. They never stop being interesting and there's always something new to discover about them. They make you think, yet at the same time, you're comfortable with them.
- Other times, it's enough to meet somebody once. You don't hate them, they're just not going to be your favorite.
- Have you ever tried to read a book a few times but just couldn't get into it? Gave it time and a few days/months/years later, voila, you like it and can't put it down. Some people are strange at first and you might not like them very much, yet sooner or later, you find out you have things in common and they can be your friends for life.
I can go on and on about this. My friends have heard me, time and again, discussing this. I don't see an end to finding similarities between them though. :)
Now, I can't live without both. People are good for the soul, for my soul. I enjoy time with friends and try to see them or be connected to them as much as I can. I still value alone time, but how alone am I when I have my books?
P.S. Sorry, it's not exactly a post about Africa. I promise the next one will be.
For an interesting read (I'm clearly biased)