In which I make a confession, apologise to books I failed to appreciate properly, and write a letter to my past self.
Unlike Gatsby, I don’t tend to dwell on the past too much. Therefore, although I am very introspective, I often make the assumption that I have always been more or less who I am today. I forget how much I’ve changed. But I got to thinking today, and I think I need to make a confession.
My confession: there were a lot of books that I gave up on when I was younger simply because there wasn’t a couple to root for. There were even more books where I missed the point entirely because I was too busy rooting for a couple.
I want to apologise to all those books.
I complained in a previous post about how there seems to be an assumption in the YA genre that romance is the only thing teens care about. As much as I would love to stick to that position, it is entirely possible that there are teens who only care about romance, and that I was one of them at one point.
But I don’t think it should be that way, which is why I’m writing a letter to my past self.
Dear Chloe of the Past,
Several years from now, you will pull out an old essay you wrote about Romeo and Juliet, and you will cringe at your position: that everyone should strive to love as they did. You will understand that a world full of people who love with the desperate, reckless passion of teenagers would be a terrifying place to live. Just trust me; don’t argue. And don’t even think about telling me that their love was a beautiful, pure, perfect thing that their society conspired to destroy. Just don’t.
Several years from now, you will understand that Gatsby and Daisy should never, not ever, not under any circumstances, have ended up together. Period. You will never again desire that one day a man will love you as Gatsby loved Daisy. This will be replaced with a sincere hope that a man never be as obsessively devoted to possessing you as Gatsby was. And no, Nick shouldn’t have ended up with Jordan, either.
Several years from now, you will revisit all the books that failed to grab your attention, not being romantic enough. You will come to love Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Jungle, The Scarlet Letter, and many more. You will plan on returning to War and Peace, Robinson Crusoe, The Last of the Mohicans, and other books that you either stopped reading or were bored during.
Several years from now, you will have read Les Miserables four more times. You absolutely will not skip over the Friends of the ABC, and you will know the difference between Enjolras and Grantaire, for pity’s sake! You will cry over this “group that almost became historic,” and you will wish things could have been different.
You will actually pay attention to Waterloo, to argot, and yes, even to the sewers.
You will not see Eponine as Cosette’s competition, hating her from the moment she tells Marius he is “a very pretty boy.” You will appreciate the tragedy of the fact that there never was a competition. In fact, just one year from now, you will even think that you are Eponine, and you will hate Cosette. And then, a few months later, you will find out that every girl in the grip of a one-sided crush thinks herself to be Eponine.
You will realise that Javert was the antagonist, but not a villain. You will ache at Fantine’s love for her daughter, your heart will swell as Gavroche unwittingly takes care of his brothers, you will tear up as Father Mabeuf is forced to sell his books one by one. Your compassion will extend to almost everyone in Les Miserables.
That’s the biggest thing, you silly, heartless young creature: you will have compassion. You do not even know what that is yet. In fact, as infatuated as you are with the idea of love, you don’t yet even know what love is.
Several years from now, you will become a caregiver. Your very first client will be a remarkable man, and you will be with him in his last moments. You will, for the first time, watch a human being die. Later, you will help his widow to sort through his things, and she will look at you with brimming eyes and say, “I just don’t know what to do.” And she will proudly tell you about this man, and you will see in her eyes what it truly means to love.
You will learn there are many, many important things in life that are in no way romantic. You will learn that there are different kinds of love.
In the meantime, though, just trust me on this. Just take my word for it. Don’t skip any portion of any book just because it is unromantic. Give every book a fair chance, especially if you’re assigned to read it.
Okay, that’s all. Just had to write that letter and apologise to those books, and I thought I would share it in case there are any whippersnappers who read my blog and will hopefully listen to me and thereby avoid having to post confessions, apologies, and letters to their past selves on their own blogs one day.
Have a lovely day!