With finals coming up next week and a weekend ahead of too much studying, instead I’ve been thinking about all the books I haven’t gotten to read this summer. From the classics I bought a few weeks ago at Barnes & Noble to my favorites that I still enjoy re-reading, I’m the kind of person who learns a lot from my books.
I’m also the kind of person who ignores what I learn from what I read.
That being said, I think we could all use a reminder every once in awhile take a break and hold onto the things that used to mean a lot to us. So as a little motivation for the upcoming weekend and a reminder that there are still two weeks to catch up on reading before the new quarter starts, here are four of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from literature. And you can bet that Fitzgerald made this list.
Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain
“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”
No matter who you are, how much money you have, or who you’ve been in the past, life is something that will always come with obstacles. If you’re like me, the hardship of doing something or the fear of what it will take to get there can stop us from even trying. We decide not to race. But in The Art of Racing in the Rain, told from the perspective of a dog, it really is the effort that counts. That’s the thing about life… We have to be willing to fail, otherwise what would life be to us? Failure is a part of the game, like getting on a bike for the first time. Even if your parents told you that you’re not going to fall a few times, you are. They lied to you. But that’s the point, you’re supposed to learn all about it along the way, it’s how we become who we are. As for the falling part, you don’t stop tripping as you get older. You simply figure out how to fall the right way.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
“No good sitting and worrying, what’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does.”
If I told you that I do my fair share of worrying on a daily basis, that would be an understatement. I’m a worrier. A big one. Summer quarter hasn’t finished yet, but somehow I’m still thinking about the midterms I know are coming by the first week of October. Does that mean the worrying prepares me for the tests any better? Not really. But I’m not the only one who thinks about things like this, a lot of us do it. One thing that a lot of people forget to do, however, is live in the moment. Sometimes we have to take things in stride. If anyone was good at that, it would be the young witches and wizards in Harry Potter— with the wrath of Voldemort and the pieces of his soul breathing down on them, they didn’t have time to get caught up in what might be coming. Neither do we. Because as much as I would like to say we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us to worry, there’s no guarantee there will be a tomorrow for each of us. And at some point, we’ve got to start living. Why not now?
Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
When I made the decision to switch my major to English, I wanted to mark the change with something permanent, even if it was something small. So I filled the top of my laptop with quotes that mean something to me, little reminders of the lives I’ve lived through literature. Among them is this beautiful line of fiction, possibly one of the best. As someone who has high aspirations and dreams of who I want to be, I also want to change from who I’ve been in the past. But it does not bode well to dwell on dreams and forget about reality in the process. I know that a lot of us hope for these changes, the hope to become someone better or to succeed in a way that fulfills our dreams… Even while we do so, we also have to remember that the only way to be better than who we used to be, we have to know who we were first. To get to the future, we have to be present.
Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”
Last but never the least, let’s talk about love— it all comes down to the beating heart of humanity. Love is the kind of thing that you can ask someone what it means get a different answer every single time. I wrote an essay last year defining love as “a manmade construct used to symbolize devotion, with no real concrete definition due to its reliance on singular experiences that differ from person to person.” It cannot be defined by gender or by passion or by sex or by society. Love is feeling, it’s telling someone to call when they get home safe, or asking how their day was and caring about the answer, or twenty seven years of sticking by their side in sickness, in health, and everything in between. Love is listening to someone’s heartbeat against yours, the only sounds in the room, and understanding that you don’t always need words to tell someone how you feel. In a generation said to have forgotten what “love” means, I don’t think that’s the case. Like anyone else, we just express it in our own ways that grow and change with who we are. No one can tell us how we are supposed to feel it, we just do. And I can be okay with that.
No matter what you find in your life or how it impacts you, the lessons we learn have the potential to change who we are from little bits of our personalities to the people we want to be. I feel like learning from books is a chronicle of time, the timeless value of life in literature. If we can’t learn something valuable from that, can we ever learn anything at all?
Happy Friday everyone, until next week.