“But, I like this one.”
The expressive eyebrow quirks. You grimace, for you know what’s coming.
“Do you really, dear?” The patronizing smile appears. “I never, in a million years, would have thought you would like that one.”
Have you ever felt defined by another person? Perhaps, even by a well-meaning one? Felt squeezed into a tiny box by expectations and pre-conceived notions of who you really are?
Have you ever felt as though you don’t really know yourself when you are in a crowd? Found yourself doing unfamiliar things, with alien emotions, with a stranger’s personality?
Have you ever heard another person’s description of your personality and thought, “Really? That’s me?”
I have. And I hated that feeling. I’ve always been a bit of a loner, so when it came time to associate with the big, bad world around me, I was shell-shocked. I felt much more comfortable in the company of books, who didn’t demand that I talk – in fact, preferred my complete and silent attention. Books brought out the “real me”, the fanciful, the adventurous, the observer of human nature – the bright, the inquisitive…the witty.
As I laughed at pompous characters, books laughed with me, enjoying my enjoyment, fascinated by my very evident wit as I chuckled at theirs’. Books matured me, grew up or down with me – books didn’t force me out of my comfort zone, for they were the comfort zone. My world. Where I was me. And where I was happy.
Then I realized something – instead of human beings, books had come to define me. Who was I, when I wasn’t in the world of books? Was I really that witty when I wasn’t embodying another character? Was I really that great of a listener when I wasn’t listening with another’s ears? The answer…
Absolutely not. But in the moments when I was surrounded by my people, in the solitude of my room – those moments shaped and defined who I was as an individual. I am not the best of conversationalists – but I can listen with empathy and sincerity. Being witty is not my defining characteristic – but I can laugh, without embarassment, at another’s wit.
I can hold my own in deep discussions, because the best of tutors have taught me the meaning of life and its rich complexity. I can talk and enjoy people, on their own merit, at any age, because my best friends broke down the age barrier.
Now I can enter a new and unfamiliar world, yet one which contains cookie-cutter people, and retain myself – who I really am, because solitude, in the company of thousands of characters, has taught me who I am and what I consider to be truly important.
Solitude will never lose its value, for those precious, pearly moments are my reward – my treasure. But the world about me has its merits too, and now I feel prepared to embrace it, to take on new adventures, new worlds, and new dreams.
And honestly? I think God smiled in amusement at my futile attempts to define myself, but I think he is also gladdened when His children are confident and strong, refusing to be defined by human standards, looking to Him to define themselves.
And if great writers, enabled by The Giver to write searing and beautiful truths, aid that defining process – I think that is just an added gift, a surprise present from the Creator of Beauty.
So…solitude and people – not quite so different as I used to think.
Especially since Mr. Rochester refused to laugh at my wit as often as I did at his. May I speak frankly? I think he has a thing for Jane…
Real people are looking better and better. That dude is just a player.