It all started many evenings ago as I lay on the couch, watching the 83rd Academy Awards with my mother. Amidst the glamorous sights, a clip of a seemingly boring movie flashed across the screen. My mother turned to look at me and said, "You should read that book. The book is also based in Atlanta [where we live] so you might enjoy it." "Sure. Whatever," I murmured, as I continued slouching and staring. Little did I know that before my 14th birthday, that brick of a book would capture my heart and change me forever.
Not long after, I saw the book lying on my desk. Gone With the Wind, the title read. My first reaction to it was: "How will I ever finish that thing?" I kept that attitude towards it for about a month. I started reading, thought Ashley Wilkes was a girl for a good 15 pages, kept thinking how snobby this Scarlett chick was, and became bored out of my mind. It wasn't until my mom asked me if I had finished or would she have to renew it from the library, did I actually start reading it.
Once I got into the book, I couldn't stop. I was completely engulfed in the old southern world of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, hoopskirts and corsets, rogues and gentlemen. I took it to school, and all of my friends kept saying, "Wow that book is so huge. You're such a nerd." But one of my friends mentioned that she loathed the novel.
"I hate the ending. Scarlett is a complete idiot. You'll understand."
I did not hate the book, but it was a traumatic ending even for a 13-year-old. When I finished the book, it was past midnight on a school night (that was a big thing back in 7th grade), and I was bawling my eyes out (hint: don't read the last five chapters at the same time. It's too much for your heart to take). I flipped through the empty pages at the end of the book like a madwoman, convinced that it all had to be a big joke -- it couldn't end like that. There had to be a hidden paragraph or chapter or something. I went to school the next day deeply depressed, and that depression didn't go away for about a week. The movie and the further drowning in my own tears did not help and it all started from there.
My love for Gone With the Wind made me want to research the movie, the book, the production, etc. I would have looked up the curtain patterns if I could! It all seemed so intriguing to me; the chaos the movie was made from, the connections of GWTW with Margaret Mitchell's life, and the legendary actors that starred in this classic. My interest grew so great that I created a website on Gone With the Wind.
When the next school year started, my obsession with GWTW had done anything but fade. Some of my friends read the book because I wouldn't shut up about it. I went to the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum that summer and cried tears of joy. During our Civil War unit in Georgia Studies, I didn't even have to study for the tests because I already knew so much about that period in history. At the end of the year, we had an orbital study project and I chose to write a mini-novel about the Civil War. I ended up writing 42 pages in three days; my teacher said she cried at the end (I killed off one of the characters), told me to consider publishing it, and she gave me an extra five points. (small disclaimer: some of the ideas for that story came off of GWTW).
The next summer, my obsession introduced me to Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable movies. I laughed hysterically at It Happened One Night and cried at the end of That Hamilton Woman. Surprisingly, I did not miss checking Facebook to find out who got a manicure when and who's going out with whom. Old movies led to documentaries on various actors and I learned how even the fabulous Vivien Leigh had to struggle and how strength, dedication and determination to live life to its fullest are the things that matter most in life.
Gone With the Wind did not just change my taste in books/movies or help me in school or change how I spent my time. It quite simply changed my life. How? Well, considering my whole taste in books, movies, TV shows, and music changed to include the decades that passed before me, and I realized that life existed before me as well. In addition, my love for writing began after reading GWTW; Margaret Mitchell's simple, eloquent, breathtaking writing style blew me away. I learned from that small woman who spent hours holed up in her even smaller apartment just writing away that designer brands and cute outfits are not what make a person successful. It is finding a passion and following it.
Have I found my passion beyond GWTW? I might someday, but for now that book has made me realize that there is a world beyond the one here and now; there are 195 other countries all with different cultures, histories, and problems. Life does not revolve around just me. There are bigger things out there and I know I will find my place. I don't even know where I would be today or who I would be today if it weren't for GWTW. It has, in a way, become a part of my identity. Sometimes I feel like I don't fit in with other kids my age. But who cares about jumping onto the bandwagon? Why watch The Bachelorette when there are shows like I Love Lucy? I have also been ridiculed a number of times because of my different tastes. "Ew, you like black and white movies? Why do you have posters of old movies in your room? You're so weird. Why do you know this song? It's from like the '20s. Haha, you're lameeee." But, I know teenagers will be teenagers. If you don't stick to the status quo, something isn't right.
And none of that matters to me; I try not to let what other people think affect me. Well, I'll just think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.