Why I Read Like a Freak {whyilove/need2read}

So I just wrote a post on how I’ve been so affected by the release of a particular book that is part of a series I absolutely love. It makes me wonder if I’m normal for being so upset and wonder why I feel this way.

I don’t know what it’s like for everyone else but learning how to read was the best fucking thing that happened to me. A little background about me. I’m the oldest kid of immigrants from South Korea. I was raised speaking Korean until I hit preschool age. There were tears of frustration, fear, and sadness because I couldn’t communicate properly.

I also lived in a rough neighborhood. We lived on the very corner of a street surrounded by Hispanic/Latino families. We were the only Asian family for that entire block. And that part of the city? Well, let’s just say I didn’t leave the windows open because of the sound of gunshots and ambulances during the night. So I ended up only having my younger sister as a playmate since none of my friends lived near me.

Now I moved to a new town for first grade which is around the time I learned how to read. Do you know what it’s like to be the new kid at not just an elementary school but one in a town that is pretty rich? Do you know what it’s like to struggle with first-grade level homework not because you can’t do the work but because you simply can’t understand what is being asked? I remember struggling with my parents all night long trying to translate the words. Very quickly I learned never to ask my parents for help on homework, I had to figure out on my own or ask my friends. I opted for the former.

So when I finally figured out that certain letters formed recognizable words. . .I was so excited. There was a very thin beginner’s level book. Maybe like 5-10 pages long. Simple sentences and lot’s of pictures. But I read it over and over and over and over again. I could communicate and finally understand without an adult’s help. It was amazing.

And as I’m taking a trip down memory lane, I realize now why I escaped to books. I was teased and bullied a lot as a kid. From first grade all the way to fifth grade, I felt out of place. Never had a best friend. Memories jumble together. Kids spitting in my face. Kids calling me names. Kids looking at me and making it very clear that I wasn’t welcome. And I don’t think I ever really explained too well to my mom just how bad it was.

Fast forward to me moving back to my hometown due to family financial issues. I attended a strict private Catholic school that made me feel unwelcome. My parents were fighting all the time about money. I had discovered the first unpaid bill of many. My family situation got worse. Bankruptcy. Eviction. The constant fear that debt collectors would come and take more possessions away because we couldn’t pay for them.

No wonder I dove into the world of books. It was just easier to lose myself in a different universe where magic existed and the heroes always defeated the bad guys. Where there were always happy endings. Something I so desperately wanted.

I’m 20 now. I’m attending a good college and am fairly confident that I’ll find a decent job and do well for myself. I have wonderful friends who always are there to support me. My family’s situation has gotten a lot better and I work enough to take care of myself.

But I can’t escape the lure of books. The promise of a great adventure. I used to think something was seriously wrong with me. Even my own parents point it out to me all the time. They can’t understand why I spend so much money on books and are concerned with the amount of time I spend just lazing around and reading instead of socializing like most kids.

And I think this explains a lot on why I don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink alcohol. My lack of interest. Books to me have been that addiction since I was small. Nothing could really replace what good writing can do.

There is also this urge–compulsory desire to write. Write, write, write. Just write out all my feelings and thoughts. To create characters and introduce them to crazy circumstances.

I have a hard time facing reality because it’s just been so hard these past 20 years to acknowledge the truth of the hard life I’ve had. I’m grateful for all the experiences because I know that each little struggle made me stronger.

But this is also why I love stories with happy endings. I’m still looking for mine. And I hope one day I will find it.

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