I’m sitting here on my bed (the same bed, in case you were interested; just in a different place), with my legs crossed. “Indian style” we used to call it, before such terms were beneath us. I know what I want to say, but I’m trying to find the words to say it. Andrew, the staff writers, and I all avoid talking too much about our private lives. We know you guys come to Therefore I Geek for witty analysis of geek news, reviews of the most recent comics, and cool anecdotes about comics history. However, sometimes real life interferes. Almost a year ago, I graduated from the College of William & Mary, and then took a ten week trip around Europe. However, since then, I’ve been occupied by a temporary job and a LOT of job applications. Six months after the end of my travels, I finally landed the job of my dreams. There was only one problem. It was in a big city, four hours away from home.So here I am, in the capitol city of the most powerful nation on earth. I have been using public transport to get back and forth from work, which seemed less sketchy than it did in my hometown, until a mentally ill woman called me a (and I quote), “%$#$#%# @#$%(*$%( $%#)(*%#@” this morning. The second night in the city, I attempted a bus run to the grocery store, but boarded on the wrong side of the street and went in the opposite direction for about ten minutes before I realized my mistake, only to disembark, cross the street, and wait another twenty-five minutes for a bus going the right way.
So yes, my life is in the middle of huge upheaval and transition. Again. And while I am away from the friendly network I have spent the last decade building, and the home feeling that I scratched out of nothing, I am left with… the books that I have loved for most of my life.
As I packed up the things that I would be able to take with me (my bed, my desk, the recording equipment for the Therefore I Geek podcast), I rediscovered some books that I had nearly forgotten. First was Jackaroo, one of the earliest books by Cynthia Voigt. She’s written a lot since the Fortune’s Wheel series, but none that I loved so much as the tale of Gwen and the mythological Jackaroo. An Innkeeper’s daughter who was born into a middle class family and had everything to lose, yet still stood up for the poor and oppressed–Gwen has been one of my favorite heroines for a very long time.
It is no secret that I adore Robin McKinley. She writes some of the most realistic and relatable heroines I have ever seen. Aerin and her horse Talat, and her horribly awkward attempts to fit in, resulting in a sickness that lasted for years, felt incredibly real to me when I first read about them as a preteen and still feel real–although in different ways–even now. I slip back into this book the way I slip into a well-broken pair of jeans. I can pick up at any point in the story and nearly quote along. Aerin’s love affair with Luthe is particularly poignant to me now, as an adult. I understand the tearing feeling of her duty to her kingdom and her king at war with her desire to be held and loved by someone who truly understood her.
In moments when my life feels so topsy turvy, and I’m so tired by everything that is new, different, and strange, I fall back on these familiar, well worn pages. I mourn with the losses and exult in the triumphs of heroes and heroines that I have loved for longer than I’ve known most of my closest friends.
I feel the hope that carageen gives to Alec Ramsey in the moment when he realizes he might not die on the island where he met The Back Stallion for the first time. I feel my throat close up in terror for Percy Blakeney or for Sydney Carton in Paris as revolutionaries charge past them, seeking their destruction. I wander into Mossflower forest and face down the wildcats who terrorize the creatures who live there as though it is the first time.
Yes, life is in the middle of yet another huge upheaval, but I’m excited for the future, and I have some familiarity to turn to when I’m feeling uncomfortable (or, y’know, terrified). My literary companions have seen me through some more unpleasant life situations than this one can ever be, and they will be here through this one too.
This is far from an exhaustive list of my favorite books. What books do you read when you need the comfort of something familiar? Let me know in the comments.