girl reading book watercolor

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“Find what makes your heart full. Cling to those things.”

Recently, I read Michelle Smith’s story on Don’t Bleed. Breathe. I read the particular line above when I thought to myself:

Books are what fill my heart. They are what I cling to. 

I haven’t really shared this with anyone but I felt sad for a really long while, especially when I started college.

I’ve never been able to admit it because I have a really good life- I’m well provided for and I’ve been so lucky getting the things I want. I have friends and my family is whole. I should be happy. Sometimes, I think I am, like when I laugh real loud and it’s so easy to say I’m fine. Sometimes, I’m really not.

There were many times I’ve cried to myself. I felt lost. I felt alone. I felt tired. I felt empty.

And then I read a book- a book that could make me smile and give me positive thoughts or a book that hits my emotions hard and makes my soul ache- and I don’t feel so lost or alone or tired or empty. I only feel the words I read enter my heart, fill it up.

Books teach me that it’s okay not to be okay. That we’re all a little messed up.

They teach me to have hope, even in times of despair.

They teach me to feel alive and find an adventure.

So I hold on tight to them, especially when it’s hard to keep my head above water. They’re like a lifeline.

I remember reading It’s Kind of a Funny Story– one of the books I read way back that moved me deeply and has been etched in my mind after all this time- and it talked about Anchors, things you do that occupied your mind and made you feel good. Reading books is one of my Anchors.

Countless times I’ve felt like running away, like leaving my life behind. It scares me how these escapist thoughts could just as easily be suicidal dangerous. But again and again, books have kept me grounded. Maybe it’s why I’m so drawn to contemporary fiction. A lot of them, especially YA, reflect how imperfect people and life are but how they’re very much worth it.

I’m thankful that I’ve always been a reader since I was young because books have proved to be a kind of salvation, especially when I was really struggling, and even now. This is why my life mission is to get more people to read books, even just through this meagre blog. Because I know they’re important. Because they can change you. Because they can save you.

PS: I read this poem about the influence of books just awhile ago and it’s everything I wanted to say in this post. I hope you go and read it.

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36 thoughts on “Holding On Tight To Books

  1. *hugs* I think I know how you’re feeling, Hazel. When I was in high school I felt very similarly. I felt like I had no reason to be upset because I lived a very privileged/good life. But there were so many nights when I just wasn’t happy, maybe even for no reason.

    I think you’re right that books can really show us that it’s okay to not be okay. Books can give us characters to relate to, even if it’s things that don’t even make a lot of sense.

    I did grow out of my “funk” from my middle/high school days and it seems like a very distant part of my past. It’s amazing to see how much we can grow over time, and books are a great way to help you move forward!

    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 8:37 am
    1. *hugs back* It’s inspiring to hear from someone who’s felt the same way at some point and moved forward! I do really love relatable characters and reading about their growth is often touching and eye-opening. I love that about books. <3

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 7:48 am
  2. I love how you said books taught you that it’s okay to feel not okay. That’s why I love really touching Contemporary YA. It reminds me that all the hurt I’ve felt is the same as what other people go through. Great post… this is why I love blogging, so we can all share these wonderful life-changing books with each other!

    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday- Childhood/Teen Books I'd Like To Revisit
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 9:41 am
    1. Exactly! I adore the fun side of Contemporary YA but the gritty ones just really grab at my heart. :)

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 7:33 am
  3. Hazel, you are such a wonderful person for posting this, and I hope that more people read it and become inspired to share their own personal stories. I know that I’m much to afraid to let people see that side of me, but it’s there too. I’m just not brave enough to open up and let people know.

    The book that let me know that it’s okay to not be okay was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I read it not too long after being diagnosed with a life-changing disease, and dealing with the side effects. It’s very near and dear to my heart, and it will always be just because it helped me so much more than I ever thought a book could. Now I have a fascination with reading books about people with depression, anxiety, etc. because I relate to it so much.

    Erin @ The Hardcover Lover recently posted: ARC Review: The Start of Me and You
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 10:18 am
    1. *tackle hugs* Thank you, Erin. You’re wonderful too! I think it’s really hard to let people see that side of us we’d rather hide and it’ll courage and time to open up. Perks is also a book dear to my heart- the last few words are especially tattooed on my mind. I’m so happy to hear it helped you greatly especially after such a difficult diagnosis. (I hope you’re okay now!) I really like reading books that tackle mental health issues as well for the same reason!

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 7:31 am
  4. Books are the best aren’t they? I love how personal they are, and how they help us through our hardships. I think that it’s true that it’s the brightest, happiest people that feel sad and bitter for a very big part of their lives but I also think that you have to give your emotions a platform too – in that it’s nice to think that being sad is silly, and sometimes ridiculous as the case may be, but for the most part we’re calling out – crying out – and for the most part…we don’t really know why. And I guess that’s where books come in – for me a lot of the time they provide escapism but also heartfelt messages and proverbs I can stand by. They give me solidarity and stability even when the wind is knocked out from under my sails.

    Mawa Mahima recently posted: Nothing to Envy: A Must-Read
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm
    1. I love this comment, Mawa! So true- books are amazing and beautiful like that. <33333

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 7:16 am
  5. I feel you, Hazel. There were times where I feel lost as well and I do prefer on keeping it to myself so this is actually quite amazing of you to have shared your feelings to us. I know there are times where everything seems hard and you feel like the universe is plotting everything against you, but I do think that it’s a part of being a teenager (I sounded like I’m fully an adult lol) you know, finding oneself. I couldn’t even say if I did already but I know one thing for sure, it gets better as long as we find something to hold on to. Books do that for me too, but sometimes they’re not enough so I turn to my friends. And they have really been a great help. I think I’m lucky to have been studying in a University that’s far away from home because it really helped me find myself and grow as a person. I met a lot of friends from uni, I had to or else I would feel terribly homesick. Haha! They help keep my mind off things and not make me feel alone. So you’re not alone in this, we are here for you!

    Inah @ The Bibliophile Confessions recently posted: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes (ARC)
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm
    1. I definitely had my doubts about posting this one because it was very personal even though I didn’t go into specifics. Even if just one person reads books because of this or feels like he/she isn’t alone, I’m glad I shared this post. You’re right, everyone at some point (but most especially during their teenage years) struggles to find themselves. Maybe that’s why YA, especially coming-of-age stories appeal to me so greatly. They’re inspiring because they couldn’t be truer for everyone who’s felt like that. I’m glad university helped you (being away and all that) even though it was the opposite for me. I’m in a much smaller college now though and I’m getting by. Thank you for being there, Inah!

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 7:13 am
  6. I have a quote in my about me by E.B. White that as always stuck with me and describes how I feel about books. “Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people — people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” And I really understand what you’re saying, it’s been the same for me as well. Books have been a bit of a lifeline and they mean more to me than some can understand. I love this post, thank you for sharing it.

    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm
    1. Thank you for sharing that beautiful quote, Alysia! I’m happy you loved the post! It’s hard when people don’t understand why we love books the way we do but that won’t stop us right? :D

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 7:02 am
  7. I know how you feel. I feel the same way and am so thankful that I have books to keep me grounded. You are right they are a kind of salvation for me also.

    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 3:56 pm
    1. I’m glad to hear books have helped you so much as well, Hillary. <3

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:47 am
  8. Who is the artist for the illustration? It is gorgeous.

    And yup. I’ve always been a solitary creature myself and preferred the company of books to people. I try to encourage others to read as well but it is very difficult, isn’t it?

    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 4:02 pm
    1. I only happened upon the illustration on Tumblr so I’m not entirely sure. I def love it and am happy you found it gorgeous.

      I feel you! It’s tough but I’ve made a few friends readers by recommending them stuff they really enjoyed and it’s a fulfilling thing.

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:45 am
  9. What a beautiful post, Hazel! Books are the best way to escape from the real world and all of our sadness and stress for a few hours. We can forget about everything that’s worrying us, and just relax, and I think that definitely plays a part in my love for books.

    Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination recently posted: Poetry and Novels, and How They Mix
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 5:00 pm
    1. Thank you, Ana! <3 Books are a lovely escape but what I love most about them is how they inspire me to be brave, to have courage and hope, to choose life and love. :)

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:40 am
  10. Hazel, I really love this post. I am right there with you girl. Reading and blogging pulled me out of a dark place and while I sometimes feel that darkness, it’s not AS bad as it once was. Books really do have the power to save lives- I truly believe this with everything in me. Reading contemporaries especially brings me hope that my life will be different someday and that I won’t always be so sad and lonely. Jessi Kirby’s Golden completely changed my life and by the end I was a mess only because I desperately wished it had been around when I was in high school. I would have done a lot of things differently and that book would have been my inspiration to do so.

    Jessica@Lovin' Los Libros recently posted: Review: Manwhore by Katy Evans {+Giveaway}
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 8:40 pm
    1. I’m so glad, Jessica. Books have been the one thing to make me feel like I’m not alone but now I can say the same about bookish people- thank you for that. I absolutely believe that books can save lives too and I’m happy to know someone who thinks the same thing.

      It feels meant to be that you mentioned Golden, because that’s also one of the books that inspired me a lot. It was just so beautiful and I related to Parker so so much. I’ll have to reread sometime. <3

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:35 am
  11. I hope you can over come your struggles in life and that you will find your true happiness. More laugh, more happy memories and more books to come.

    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 9:58 pm
    1. Hazel, you’re a lovely person. (And I’m not just saying that because we have the same awesome name.) Truly, thank you.

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:21 am
  12. Hazel, thank you for this post. I can relate and it’s always nice to know we’re not alone.

    Kayla recently posted: Book Review: You
    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 10:19 pm
    1. You’re welcome, Kayla. Thank you also for reading! I’m really glad I decided to share this post.

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:19 am
  13. I really REALLY want to meet you in person, Hazel. I just know that you’re a wonderful and beautiful person. And I think we’ll click ;) You’re not alone with these thoughts. Tbh, when I was reading this post I felt like I wrote it. Some people don’t understand why I read. Sometimes they think that its too much. But they don’t know that books are the only thing I hold on to. I’m not a people person (but I’m on the process of being one :P) I’m a work in progress. I think I’ll be a work in progress forever. Anyway, just want to let you know that I’m here! You can talk to me. I can be awkward but I can handle a conversation :)) *hugs*

    You know whats beautiful abt bookish people? We know how to FEEL. Yeah, maybe sometimes we feel too much. But THAT’S OKAY. That means we’re here. And that we exist ;) ;)

    Everything will be okay. Maybe not now but just so you wait! :) Btw, love that poem so so much. And hmmmm I recommend happy books! I’m looking for happy books as well since recent books I read made me so sad. *hugs again* :D Stay cool and stay bookish!

    Posted on March 24, 2015 at 10:42 pm
    1. Paula, you’re making me cry. *wipes tear* I hope I get to meet you sometime too! Thank you for reading and for sharing how you’ve also felt before. I love what you said about being a work in progress. I absolutely get that and I feel I am one too. Maybe we all are and that’s a good thing.

      I’m not a people person either (obviously we’re book persons, yeah? ;)) and I’m major awkward/quiet but I’m so glad to have lovely blogging friends like you!

      I think that’s also what’s great about books- they make you feel. Because if we don’t feel, we’re empty. So I’m thankful for books and for bookish people. :)

      I’m much better now, less of a sad mess, but there are still bad days. But like I said, books taught me to always have hope- so I believe things will be okay. For now, I’m gonna relax and read! I’m starting Geek Girl and it’s proving to be a fun book- I hope you get to check it out! Thank you so very much for your thoughtful and beautiful comment. :D

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:18 am
  14. I love this post. I’ve felt the same way you described so many times. Like I had no real reason to, but I just wanted to hide and cry and be alone. Books have really helped me through these times, I could lose myself in a book and not think about how upset I was or how my life wasn’t going the way I planned. I especially like what you said about Anchors (and now I really want to read this book) and how it is important to have something to occupy the mind. I do like books more than people, sometimes. I do enjoy people, but I need my moments of escape from the world sometimes, and that’s what books help me achieve.

    Posted on March 25, 2015 at 1:39 pm
    1. Bruna, thank you so much for sharing your own experience and for letting me know that I’m not the only one who’s felt this way. I hope you get to read It’s Kind of a Funny Story- it’s a book that’s special to my heart because it really helped me accept the sadness that was (and sometimes is still) a part of me and taught me that it’s important to find your anchors.

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:02 am
  15. I totally agree with you, books have always kept me grounded and have made me happy when I have been sad. Lovely, meaningful post!

    Kristin @ Simply Bookish Things recently posted: Waiting on Wednesday #2 - An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
    Posted on March 25, 2015 at 2:27 pm
    1. I’m so glad you agree! Thank you for reading, Kristin!

      Posted on March 26, 2015 at 5:55 am
  16. Someone up above wrote that they felt like when they were reading this, it was almost as if they had written it themselves and I totally agree. I’ve felt like this for a long time and spent a lot of time with doctors and psychologists and other professionals trying to make me feel better, but nothing has saved my life more than books have.
    I remember going through a really rough time when I started university too. There was a two year block when I just didn’t cope. I was sad and felt alone even though I had so many friends – no-one understood why I just wasn’t coping.
    But books were always there to take my mind off things and they helped me understand how to cope with what I was feeling and when they weren’t doing that they distracted me, taught me empathy and made me feel alive.

    I stopped reading for a little while; I don’t know why. But it was one of the darkest times in my life. And then one night when I couldn’t shake it, I picked a book up again and just read and whilst I’m still not okay sometimes, reading always helps me feel stable.

    Thank you for talking to us about this – it was wonderful to know someone else understands.

    Sas @ Tea Mouse recently posted: Waiting on Wednesday (10)
    Posted on March 26, 2015 at 2:04 am
  17. Hey there. I totally relate to that. For a while, I was quite suicidal, and books (a book named How To Fall In Love) actually saved me. I just want to tell you that it’ll get better. Life will get better. There will be times when you suddenly feel depressed for no apparent reason, but that’s alright. Just do what I do, which is to grab the nearest book and lose yourself in the stories. So, smile more. Books make everything awesome ;)

    Maryam @ Captain Swan Bookishhh recently posted: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
    Posted on March 26, 2015 at 6:51 am