Friday, December 7, 2018

Feeling Infinite and Other Inexpressibles

A bestseller read and loved by many, the Perks of Being a Wallflower is the novel I most recently completed. It's been almost 20 years since the book's initial publication, but I was still overwhelmed by how impacted I was by the story on a personal level.

This isn't a review, a summary, or a recap of the book. This is simply a compilation of my thoughts upon completion of this novel. I can't promise its coherency or even its significance, but if you want to read my attempt to communicate my thoughts, continue on.

As a junior in high school, I was already able to relate to that theme of the novel. I remember being a freshman and falling in with a crowd of older friends and just learning so much about the world and life and feeling all these emotions I'd never experienced before. And they weren't easy emotions to express.  Happy, sad, angry, stressed. These words no longer communicated what was happening in my brain. In any given moment I was feeling a combination of so many different things, and the result was always some incomprehensible witch's stew of emotions. (I don't know why I'm writing in the past-tense; these things are still true now.)

And the best moments-- the heights of existence-- changed. They stopped being those giddy moments of pure joy and excitement-- like running down the stairs on Christmas morning or getting an unplanned sleepover two nights in a row. Instead, the best memories became those flashes of life-- like clips in a montage. Just moments where you feel more alive than usual. A gorgeous sunset paired with the right music, driving down a country road with the right person. The antsy anticipation that comes from the warm air on a summer night, when you're dancing under the stars. Curling up under a blanket during a rainstorm, your breathing in time with the rhythm of existence.

Charlie says it best. "And in that moment, I swear we were infinite." 

He uses infinite to describe that larger-than-life feeling so difficult to express with our vocabulary. And while Chbosky was just as unable to truly translate that feeling into words as everyone else, his interpretation struck a chord with me on a deeper level. I understood exactly what Charlie meant when he said he felt infinite, and it was the first time that I realized maybe my over-romanticization of life wasn't something only in my brain. Maybe other people are like that, too.

Charlie's relationship with music was something else I related to personally. Friends of mine often tell me I hear music differently than other people. Maybe that's true, maybe that's not, but I will say that music is something I feel in my bones-- not hear in my ears. It frames the way I see life-- it frames the way I live my life-- and I think it does for Charlie as well.

Reading from the perspective of a character who placed so much emotion into those abstract, inexpressible parts of existence normalized my own life for me. And while, in reality, my life is nothing like Charlie's, I fell into old memories from my own past countless times while reading about Charlie's.

Maybe I'm just in that time of my life where life is changing faster than the seasons, where emotions and thought processes and outlooks on life are becoming more complex every day, and where everyone-- including myself- makes less sense than quantum mechanics. Maybe my love and connection with this book was just a projection of my own thinking into someone else's story. Or maybe the Perks of Being a Wallflower is just the type of book that tells an infinite number of stories-- whichever one you need to read the most at the time.

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