"All The Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven tells the story of how the lives of Theodore Finch and Violet Markey intertwine when, by fate, they meet at the top of their school's bell tower for a similar reason: They had both been contemplating suicide. I don't want to spoil any of the main plot, but despite this story being totally fictitious, it felt so real to me, and it made life feel a little more real, too. It took way too much effort to pick out only a few quotes from the sea of insight this novel and its author had to offer, but here are the five quotes (in no particular order) that reminded me most to live life as it's been set before me.
1. “I know life well enough to know you can’t count on things staying around or standing still, no matter how much you want them to.”
Life is fast-moving, impatient, and temporary. There are points where it may feel like things are slowing down, but in reality, that's when everything is quickening. Material things come and go, and people as well will come and go in time. It seems sad, maybe a little disappointing, but the quicker you accept that nothing is permanent in life (considering life itself is not permanent), the happier you will actually be. Appreciate the temporary right now because sometimes now is all we have.
2. “When we’re in the act of wandering, we need to be present, not watching it through a lens.”
Capturing the greatest moments of my life on camera may be my quickest reflex and worst habit. I'm obsessed with recording my life so I can look back on it later, but do I remember as much as I want to from actually being there in that moment? No, not really. This quote just reminds me that some things really are better off being seen by the bare eye, no camera lens or phone screen attached. Live in the present! There's no use in remembering what moments look like if you don't remember what it felt like to be there.
3. “The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”
One of the biggest patterns formed in life is the ratio of our gives to our takes, and sometimes that ratio becomes imbalanced. In many cases, the balance leans in favor of the things that we take. We collect souvenirs from life like material things, favors from others, attention, reputation, etc. How many of us make it a goal to leave things behind instead? What we leave doesn't even count as losses. Instead, they are gifts for those who are here after us and those who truly need what we have. A grand collection of all our takes does not even compare to the good deeds that we pursue while we are here.
4. “No longer rooted, but gold, flowing. I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me."
I don't know how else to explain this quote other than it being something you just need to know will come. This moment of being uprooted from something that's weighed you down for so long is a moment everyone waits for. You'll need constant belief in yourself and constant self-assurance that you will get to where you need to be. It will be exhausting, but all the energy you put into getting there will be rewarded back to you in that moment where everything will begin to flow again. "I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me," and in everything you do, you will feel unstoppable.
5. “… I bring it up to let you know that this is the way I feel right now. Like Pluto and Jupiter are aligned with the earth and I’m floating.”
While stargazing on the roof of a city building, Theodore told Violet the story of the Jovian-Plutonian alignment hoax. On television, a scientist explained that the supposed alignment of Jupiter and Pluto with Earth would cast an anti-gravitational effect on our planet, and if people jumped at a certain time, they would feel like they are floating. Despite this being a total farce, Theodore told Violet that the lovely moment they were sharing together atop that building made him feel like this astronomical phenomenon was actually happening and he was floating with her. I think it's super important to recognize the particular people whose simple presence make you feel this happy. Surround yourself with people who make life feel like Jupiter, Pluto, and Earth are constantly aligned.
Encased in this novel was this really weird mix of tragedy and joy, but it told its story in a way that made life seem way more worth living. The individual stories of Theodore and Violet, as well as their story that they made together, only remind you that there's more to come, and everything that lies ahead of us demands to be experienced. Take everything word by word instead of word for word. Only then will you see how these quotes and the book as a whole highlight individual lives as equally appreciated and incredibly important.