I’ve always been a little bit rubbish at reading. I tend to go through phases where I throw myself into a book but then can go for months without picking it up again. I know, I know, for a lot of you that probably sounds painful, but when you’ve got everything else in life weighing you down, reading, for me anyway, tends to be a pretty low priority on the list unfortunately.
I get so incredibly jealous of people on social media who tend to blitz through a book a week and crack on with the next with no break in-between. The ease in which most people read just doesn’t really come too naturally to me, I’m such a slow reader (University was a joy as you can imagine…) and I lose interest pretty easily, so if the book doesn’t grip me straight away it tends to get put down fairly sharpish.
After hearing amazing things about Normal People by Sally Rooney through social media and various podcasts I picked it up as a bit of a spur of the moment purchase one day whilst out on a lunch break. I started reading it in the spring earlier this year, but, me being me I got about a quarter of the way through it before neglecting it for a few months on my coffee table. I carried on hearing conversations surrounding the book, at work, every time I scrolled through Instagram or when I picked up a newspaper on the bus someone was talking about it and every time I made a mental note of “I *must* pick that book back up and finish it”.
When September rolled in, I got my usual back to school feeling and reading was on the top my “I need to try harder” list. I picked Normal People back up earlier this month and finished it in the space of 3 days, which, when I was at work for most of the day, and considering little slow reader here, is pretty damn fast. The book completely absorbed me like no other book has in a very long time. I’m not going to divulge too much of the story as if you’re planning on reading it I would hate to spoil it for any of you but, for me, I felt like an incredibly important and an incredibly relevant read for this weird little modern world we live in.
As someone who had a weird upbringing, I can feel massively dislocated from social conventions. Being taught at home meant whenever the opportunity arose to socialise with other people my own age I felt so much pressure to make the right impression. I cared so much about what other people thought of me, my whole existence seemed to hinge on whether these groups of people liked me or not. There were times when I would completely change my whole personality to try and fit in, pretending to like things I’d never liked, wearing clothes I’d never shown interest in, and even in some situations, change the way I spoke if I thought I sounded too nerdy. What people think of you can be absolutely everything when you’re at that vulnerable age where you long to belong to something. That group of people, the “cool kids” at school who everyone wanted to be friends with, those girls who always looked amazing or those musicians you so desperately wanted to be “in” with can seem like the only thing that you really want in life. When you’re living it, when you’re that person, you can’t imagine ever feeling any different about the situation. The reality is, as you get older you genuinely stop caring about what people think.
Well that’s to say you stop caring about what strangers think of you. I no longer have to worry what my close friends and family think as I know they love me for who I am as I love them for who they are too. You start becoming more comfortable with who you are as a human. It’s not something you particularly notice happening, it’s an incredibly slow transition but it’s one that definitely happens. You no longer need that validation from those groups of people as living your own life starts taking over and starts being more important. You find your groove of people, people that accept you for who you are no matter what music you like or what clothes you wear and the day you actually realise it is comforting.
One of the themes running through the book is this very thing, acceptance of who you are as a person and the realisation that as you get older trying to fit in really doesn’t matter anymore. I realise I just massively went off on a tangent there but what I’m trying to say is Normal People massively made me realise that I am now at that point in my life, I am comfortable (to a certain degree I think…) with who I am as a person. This doesn’t mean that I’m particularly confident in anything I do but I no longer worry about what someone might think whilst I’m doing it as I’m comfortable that this is me and I’m too far gone to change anything now!
I’m not too sure if this post made a huge amount of sense but it’s a little brain fart of a ramble for you about how Normal People is a bloody good read (I highly recommend!) and your little reminder, if you need it, to be yourself and not worry about what anyone else thinks of you as one day you’ll look back and laugh at why you worried!
Thanks for reading
(Pictures taken by Matthew at my workplace at our ‘Maps: From the Familiar to the Fantastical’ exhibition…)