I perfectly remember the first book I put my eyes on: an ancient Italian edition of Gulliver's Travels, that belonged to a much younger version of my mother. I surely was a very ambitious newly literate; as a six-year-old and with close-to-zero knowledge of the world, it took me over six months to finish a little pearl that opened a Universe of endless happiness and discovery that to this day hasn't ceased to astonish me.
In a handful of years, having just a few social relationships to count on (mostly consisting of a single friend called Sara), my affair with books reached an obsessive level of magnificence, from Louisa May Alcott to Jane Austen and George Orwell. I read whatever I could find in my parents' house, never tired of experiencing new mind adventures that sometimes I was fully capable of understanding and sometimes not, which, in that case, stimulated my brain like nothing else could. Reading was a part of my daily routine, just like eating or drinking water.
In the middle of my childhood, a brief step divided me from my next passion: writing. Writing allowed me to put into words any scenario I had in mind, without worrying about possible consequences, because what I put on paper stayed in my closet. So, at the age of 10, I wrote my first book; it was entirely hand-written and it lay in a leather notebook that soon ran out of room. I finally knew what I wanted to do for life: I wanted to be a writer, because writing enriched my thoughts and my soul. I wanted to navigate the endless land of literature till I lived, because there were no boards I couldn't reach with my imagination and it all could happen from the silence of my room. I didn't write because I necessarily wanted to be read, I wrote because it made me live and not simply survive.
One day, my brother introduced me to the world of Internet; I was in 8th grade and I didn't know that the time I was spending online was directly proportional to the absence of time I dedicated to books. With the years going by and high school kicking in, all of a sudden, my favorite activity, the one that had kept me company ever since I learned how to spell, was put on the shelf, just like the last book I had read. I started to question my ability to write because I confronted myself to what others did, I confused success (and the numbers of followers a blog had) with talent. I got discouraged and, while the blogosphere became infinite and Sophie Kinsella was considered the next entertainer for teenagers and young adults, I started to lose hope. It wasn't about being content anymore, it was about narcissism. I became impatient and I lost the focal point; I wasn't enjoying the journey. All I wanted were comments on my posts.
Soon enough social networks had spread around like crazy, people started to take pictures of themselves in flirtatious poses just to try to impress strangers on the other side of a screen, everybody seemed to have a talent, everybody seemed to be struggling to succeed, to become the life-changing experience that humanity (or at least a part of it) was waiting for. Photographers, writers, painters, musicians and a whole lot of very opinionated individuals were everywhere, ready to represent the difference, to mark scores for their ego: showing, presenting, talking and stealing, in a neurotic process of voyeurism and delusion that hasn't stopped and probably won't at all. Everything is a sensation; everything needs to be an emotion before it is anything else.
When "average" is the rule, being sensational becomes the exception and, with the rules changing every day, being the voice, among millions, seems almost impossible. What makes us lucky is that we can: we can talk, we can show, we can present and we can allow ourselves to be influenced. Maybe we're not the next Hemingway (and hopefully we're not the next Sophie Kinsella), but we express because we can.
Don't get discouraged, enjoy the journey looking for what keeps you from mere surviving. Turn your life into a bright and joyful experience, beyond the appearance and beyond the surface. Believe in what you do and, above all, remember the first book you read, the first painting you set your heart on, the first album you listened to, the first picture that has caught your sight, making you who you are, free from delusions and fake myths.
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