A Written Refuge

I was an isolated child, both geographically and socially.  My sister and I were great friends, although we had very different ideas of fun.  (I tended to want to be outside – she liked dolls and plastic ponies.)  But the two of us were the only kids our own age in our neighborhood, so there were not a lot of possibilities for friends there.  The few friends I had from other activities lived on the other side of town, leaving our friendship dependent on adults with cars and frequently stranded at the places where our lives overlapped. 

When it came to school, my biggest concern was learning.  Smart is never in, with kids, so being happy to be intelligent kept me apart from most of my classmates until high school.  I also cared little for fashion (still don’t, most of the time) and was out of the loop on pop culture.  All of this made me an exceptionally good target for teasing.

I don’t want people to think I was physically bullied in school, but I definitely received more than my share of verbal taunts.  Comments about clothes stung, and when boys I liked used that knowledge to taunt me about my innocence (and even ignorance) of physical contact, it hurt.  The comment I remember most?  It came from a girl in my English class in junior high.  “Why do you try so hard?  Boys don’t like girls who are smart.” 

Amidst all of this, I found a refuge, solace in the written word.  I was never without a book, sometimes two or three.  Any free moment, my nose was buried in the pages.  Fiction, especially, was my shield; I have been blessed with the ability to completely immerse myself in another world, to the point that I am sometimes disoriented when I close a book or leave a movie.  From this, it should be no surprise that I grew to develop my own characters, my own stories, or that I so thoroughly fell in love with fantasy when I was introduced to it in high school.

Even to this day, books are my safe place.  Standing in line or waiting for anything, I will likely have a book out.  If I can’t sleep, or I need a moment away from people at work, I read.  And now, a new variation; writing.  I do not need a computer or a notebook to write.  I simply call my characters into my head and build scenes, develop dialogue, design costumes and scenery.  This is actually the original source of my stories; creating characters and storylines in my head, in situations where I was bored and a book was not appropriate.  Two of the characters in my new novel are old friends; they helped me fall asleep every night for the first few months I lived on my own.  Thinking about them kept me from worrying about all the things a female alone in an apartment should fear.  Later, the multi-layered plotlines of my now-completed novel gave me a distraction from a stressful job and master’s degree work.

What does this say about me, that I need to take comfort in the imagined realms of others and worlds that are only found inside my head?  I am no longer that outcast child, to seek solace in a story.  And yet the tales still draw me, the words call, and I find my best rest, my most beloved refuge, in the pages.

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