There are many things I cannot live without. There are the basics: food, water, air, shelter, and sunlight. But there is one other thing as well:
Reading was, and still is a big part of my life. It shaped me into who I am today and inspired me to reach for the stars. Books make my eyes glow, my heart speed up and slow down. They take my breath away. And, above all, books allow me to leap into another world where I can leave behind all the concerns and frustrations that threaten to overwhelm me. Books are a place where I am special.
I started off by reading thin, colorful books, books like Cinderella and Rapunzel. My eyes would rove across the cover, taking in the beautiful depictions and flowing bronze script of the title. Slowly, my fingers would trace those letters, connecting one to the other. Then they would slip to the edge of the cover, gripping it tightly, and my adventure would begin.
I would always marvel at the illustrations, run my small fingers across the smooth surface of the pages, pretending to have Rapunzel’s long, silky locks, Belle’s beautiful golden dress, and Cinderella’s clear, glass slippers. Finally, I would move on to the inky black text beside the illustrations. And slowly, carefully, I would whisper the words, enunciating each syllable meticulously, savoring the words rolling off my tongue and into thin air.
And, every time the flourished “The End” would appear, I would flip back to the beginning of the tale and experience it all over again.
I never tired of this.
I would again be thrown into a world filled with fairy godmothers, evil stepsisters, and magical warlocks. My heart would beat rapidly, and then slow to a steady flutter. I would laugh with delight and gasp with shock. My eyes would widen and crease with the passing of each page.
And, as I grew older, the lure of magic and adventure entangled me in their grasp. Fantasy books took my breath away. I dived into worlds filled with witches and wizards, spells and potions, prophecies and mysteries. They opened my eyes to a new meaning of imagination. I read the books over and over and over again, the way I did with Cinderella and Rapunzel. And each time I read them, it was with a fevered delight. Every time I stepped into another world, I could not step out. The words lulled me into a dreamlike state that I did not want to wake up from, because waking up meant the pain of reality. And I would go off, into that land far, far away. All of my worries and frustrations vanished, leaving behind a pleasant calm, warming my heart, bringing a smile to my face.
But I wanted…more.
Always, always, always.
And then I realized what I needed.
More than reading, I wanted to create my own world of words; I wanted to write. I wanted to fill an empty book with words that laughed, words that cried, words that screamed, words that whispered, and words that rang with a magic and ferocity all of its own.
So, I wrote.
With a pencil in my hand, I created worlds. Worlds filled with talking animals, fire-breathing dragons, immortal humans, rivers of fire, and girls who yearned for more.
All of this, I created with words.
And, just as with reading, I would always feel a soothing wave crash over me every time my pencil hit the blank sheet of paper in front of me. I found that with the pencil, paper, and, of course, my mind, I could escape, even if it was just for five minutes. And I loved that feeling. It always felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, as if I was finally safe from the sometimes cold hand of reality. My tears would dry, my heart would slow, and I would dive into the story, the only sounds the whispers of my pencil skimming across the page and the melody of the words leaking onto the page. I would shape the words into music. Sometimes, they were the mellow tones of jazz. Other times, the rough crashes of rock. Each sang its own song, had its own rhythm and melody unique from all others. Every word left a trail across the page, afterimages of flashing lights, rumbles of thunder, and the pounding of a thousand hearts.
But, always, always, always, I’d end my stories with a flourished “The End.”