What or who is it, in your life, that you honestly crave? When you’re sad where do you turn to? When you’re feeling alone what gives you comfort? When you crave adventure where do you go?
Books have always been and will always be all of that for me. They are my source of adventure and companionship. Books can turn a mood towards whatever you’d like as long as you pick the correct one, and they leave you with new friends and experiences that you never would have imagined.
In my Junior year of High School I went off to the middle of Iowa. My boarding school was teensy – people often drove past it six or seven times without realizing (while looking for it specifically), and it was an escape from the humdrum of normalcy. My older brother failed a grade and was forced there to repeat Sophomore year. Mom and I visited him for his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (he was the Faerie King as well as someone else), and I decided that I wanted to attend as well. I wrote a letter and applied, and they gave me a sizable amount of scholarship money so that I would be able to attend.
The dorms at my tiny school were houses. There was a “dorm family” (school staff) who lived in half of the house, and students lived in the other half. Mine was on the edge of campus, and it was the same dorm that my brother lived in as a student (they converted it to a female dorm during the summer between our stays). One time while cleaning, we found an M&M CD (Vietnamese version) in the ceiling tiles. The guy it obviously belonged to (the only Vietnamese student) graduated with my brother (M&M was strictly forbidden, along with all music that was depressing in any way or had any curse words at all).
My Dorm Parents were brand spankin new along with me. They’ve risen in the five years since I graduated and he is now Headmaster. I’m not sure what all she does, but the school has changed tremendously. I would no longer be accepted as a student there if I were to be in high school now – their entire focus has narrowed.
Anyway, they were new. I’ll blame it on that. They were new and didn’t understand how to handle living with twelve girls (they had a son and two daughters, their youngest, B, was a year older than I. The others were out of the house). They didn’t quite understand, during that first year, that you really have to pick your battles.
In other words, they took away my books.
I was an honor roll student who participated in dramatic arts as well as a journalist for the school paper, yearbook editor, part of the Soccer, Equestrian, and Volleyball teams, and I volunteered whenever the opportunity came up. Yet they said that my books took away from “social opportunities” – okay, so when J set the dorm on fire by microwaving a plastic cup of apple jacks so they would “taste like apple pie” I probably shouldn’t have ignored the screams to read Harry Potter, but a girl’s got priorities – and that I needed to “broaden my horizons”.
My Dorm Mom discussed it with my actual Mom, and Mom was smart. She’s the same as I am (though she has very little time to read these days). She knew what would happen to me without books, and she said it was a bad idea. They didn’t listen, and I wasn’t allowed books that weren’t specifically for school.
No checking books out of the library.
They had the librarian checking up on me during study halls to ensure that any book I was reading had to do with school.
They had me put all of my personal books in a box which they locked in their house.
I could “earn” a book by proving that my social life was improving.
My circle of friends mainly consisted of their daughter, my friend C, her brother, and a senior, J. During this time I became closer to C’s brother, and was banned from talking to him (along with their daughter. We were all friends and only friends, but girls weren’t allowed too much interaction with boys. Nopenopenope.wtfman) for two weeks. I tried to become closer to J, but she was just the same as me when it comes to social situations. We both enjoyed climbing on top of the shelving in the coat room and reading where no one would find us. C was, frankly, a horrible influence, and B and I led extremely different lives when it came to after school activities.
So instead of expanding my social network, I collapsed in on myself a bit more. This was the only truly bad experience I had at that school. There were some other times where things happened that I didn’t agree with obviously, but it was a good school where I learned and experienced more than I would have if I had stayed in my hometown during those years. When it became evident that I wasn’t becoming more social as a result of not being allowed my pleasure reading I was punished at first. The punishments weren’t anything horrible…mucking stalls (which I love to do) and babysitting for the headmaster on weekends mostly. A few detentions full of copying lines from the encyclopedia and such. None of that helped either obviously.
This is when I started to write. I needed the escape so badly. All of these years later, writing a fictional land for myself is almost as good as disappearing into one written by someone else, but at the time it wasn’t enough.
Eventually my Dorm Mother was convinced by my Mother to give my books back. This was after I called home sobbing (we were allowed one 30 min call a week) multiple times and my Mom called the Headmaster.
And that was the rather abrupt end to that story.
Don’t take my goddamn books because you will regret it.