All my life, I have inhabited two worlds. There is the flesh and bone world that I reside in; it is filled with daily tasks, family and loved ones, ambitions, goals, ventures and routine.
Then, there is the world of books; places of fiction and literature, old friends and new adventures. Upon an early age, I was granted citizenship to this land. It's had such an indelible impression on my identity that I cannot remember a time when I didn't know this place. As I got older, the goal of "published author" made it's way onto my list of ambitions and has never left.
Cracking open the spine of a new book and immersing myself in the tightly bound pages is a pleasure of mine that knows no bounds. Over the years, books have spun me around the globe. I felt the dry heat of Alabama as Atticus Fitch fought for justice. I read about Orwell's Big-Brother world, with eyes ever-watching, as my own world began to take a similar shape. I partied at Long Island, fell down the rabbit hole with Alice and experienced a bitter Winter with Anna Karenina. I ate elevensies with Hobbits and went on an ether binge with Hunter S. Thompson. I drank champagne in Holly Golightly's brownstone.
I learned about the anatomy of the human body, it's physiological functions and mechanisms. I learned of the cruelties that us humans can inflict on one another; from the concentration camps in Germany to massacre's in the Congo. I learned about friendship and love. I learned how to flirt in a Tudor Court and how to dance the Black Bottom in 1920s Paris. I discovered characters that would become my greatest friends, and stories that broke my heart before mending it again.
Books are my most loyal companions. They have traveled with me across oceans and continents. They've taken me to places I can only wish that I one day will visit in person. They have comforted me when I'm sad, they enhance my joy when it's present. In their pages, I have found eternal truths and new ways of thinking. I have never lost myself in a book - I've only ever discovered.
Low on cash (i.e flat broke) at the moment, I've frequently been going to my local library. Last Saturday, at a loss at what to do with no money and no car, I went to worship at this house of knowledge. Standing in between the crime thrillers and the world history section, my current poverty was forgotten. With my library card, I in fact held in my hands a passport which could take me anywhere.
Later on that night, my Mum and I were talking. Money, never something which we have an abundance of, has been especially tight of late. With a few weeks to go before I return to RTE, our stretched situation will not improve before then and while neither one of us are materialistic, money does come in handy for day-to-day living.
There have been times when I've looked at my peers with envy and their ability to jet off to Thailand, or decision to pursue a masters because they have the money and the time to do so. When they say they have no money, they mean they can't afford to go on the piss that week. When I say I've no money, it means I can't top-up my Leap card after the bills are paid. Very easily, you can find yourself in a slump of self-pity and feeling hard-done-by; which changes nothing but makes you feel a lot worse.
As I wandered the library, I came to the bit that housed the non-fiction and biography books. Reading the authors names, I was confronted with journalists and writers, old and new. Some I know personally, some I know only through reputation. But their published works sat side by side, an eclectic mix of stories and experiences and opinions.
Not one of them got there because they paid someone to publish their book. None of them achieved success due to family connections. Each one of them carved out a life for themselves with hard work, merit and determination. And I'm fairly sure that such an achievement seemed impossible when they were twenty-three too.
What I have gained from my voracious reading of books cannot be taken from me. It's not something with can be bought with a common cash transaction. In large part, it is books which have brought me to where I am - my understanding of the world and my place in it - and it is books which will bring me further. Books don't care about my status, my background, my bank balance. They only care for words; their ebb and flow, their application and manipulation, their formation into sentences on a page.
And so, as I turned my back to the writers who have come before me, I felt calm in the knowledge that I too will one day join their ranks. I will not only inhabit this world, I will help build it.