“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” So goes a quote from one of my favourite books of all time, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
I came across such a book recently. A colleague and fellow bibliophile gave me a pile of books, and among them was Quiet by Susan Cain. The subtitle, The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, drew me right in, and I read it cover to cover. And when I was done, I started talking about it to anyone who would listen, and passed on my copy to anyone who wanted to read it. One of those eye-opening, life-changing books, it helped me understand:
- Why, after a certain time of day, I prefer to be alone and silent—and that it’s ok to feel that way;
- Why I often feel exhausted after being around extra-gregarious, ultra-talkative people;
- That I was actually not shy as a child—just extra-cautious when finding myself in unfamiliar territory, confronted with unfamiliar people;
- That I can influence people and effect change—even if it means stepping out of character from time to time—if I care about something or someone deeply enough.
Most importantly, I think this book has helped me become better friends with myself, the person I am now as well as the person I used to be. One of the people Cain interviewed, David Weiss, a drummer and music journalist, says, “I feel like I am in touch with [my nine-year-old self] today. Whenever I’m doing something I think is cool, I send a message back to that person and let him know that everything turned out ok. I feel like when I was 9, I was receiving that signal from the future, which is one of the things that gave me the strength to hang in there. I was able to create this loop between who I am now and who I was then.”
I like this idea of creating loops, of coming full circle. I think this was a very timely book to read, one of the very last books to pass through my hands before I turn 40. Sometimes I look at old pictures of myself, and I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, but it seems that often I looked more solemn and worried than a child ought to look. So now I tell that worried-looking little girl that there are challenges and sorrows ahead, but a lot of joys too, and everything turns out ok. And best of all, the things about you that may have been misunderstood and ridiculed then—your bookish, quiet nature, your quirky sense of humour, your sensitivity to beauty and the power of words—are the same qualities that will find you true friends and true love as an adult, and bring you success in your profession.
So chin up—and here’s to the next 40.