Last week I crept through the darkened corridors of an abandoned townhouse on 2nd Street in search of an ancient heirloom. Today I plan on trekking across the grand expanse of the Saharan desert to delve into the culture of Nigerian tribal groups. That is, of course, if I can finish my statistics homework in a decent amount of time. No, I am not claiming to be a diplomat who is on assignment across the globe or an undercover FBI agent on a mission. In fact, when I’m screened at the airport, the only form of identification that I can provide is a laminated school ID card. All I’m saying is that in my lifetime, I have never once stepped foot outside this country, yet I have already journeyed across the world and back. I’m an avid believer that adventure is more a state of mind than a physical action and that, sometimes all it takes to transport yourself to another place is to invest your mind in a good book. Perhaps my passion for reading stems back to the nights when my mother and I would curl up on the couch and read two or three picture books back to back. Before I was even old enough to read the words on the pages, I would take charge of the story’s plot, using the illustrations as guidelines from which to develop a tale of princesses and faraway lands. Though I matured out of my Disney Classics stage, I never quite lost my love for fantastical ideas and magical happenings.
Countless hours of my childhood were spent wandering through the endless maze of my local library in search of a new book that sparked my interest. I can still remember the first time I ventured into the children’s chapter book section in third grade. I met a young detective named Nancy Drew who changed the way I viewed strong, independent women for the better. To this day, I am still waiting for Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and I to wrinkle time into another dimension. For all the fantasy books I read as a child, I always feel drawn to the historical fiction section of the book store. Humans have lived on earth for thousands of years and I have only been around for seventeen of those years. I find myself wanting to know what it would have been like to be entertained by the likes of Jay Gatsby or to have lived under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, where even flying a kite was prohibited. The world around me is changing and evolving so rapidly, I’m afraid that if I don’t take the time to acknowledge the past, the future will be lost on me.
I am proud to say that I am an official employee of the same library that has always provided me with a limitless amount of knowledge, discovery and happiness. As I restock the shelves with returns or pull the holds for our patrons, I can’t help but to occasionally wonder if everyone else experiences books the way I do. Did they feel that drop in their stomachs when Alice fell down the rabbit hole? Could they feel the fear and confusion of Malala as she opened her eyes for the first time in Birmingham? Opening a new book still gives me the same thrill of anticipation as I wait for my newest adventure to unfold. Even if it is only for an hour or two, I am always happy to abandon suburbia for a ride along the Venice canals or a journey to the war-stricken battlefields of Nazi Germany. One day, I hope to travel the world and to physically walk the streets where all of my favorite stories have taken place. But until then, I’m comforted by the ability of a book to instantly take me anywhere I want to go.