You could say that from the moment us millennials were born, our world was constantly changing from the get-go. Today, with mostly millennials being the source of trends, it's not surprising that nostalgia rules our little worlds. To capture a single moment of time in our lives where nothing has ever been steadfast is comforting. We can control it. We can own it. And if we really want to, we can relive it to capture those same emotions from our youth. But it's tough for even our feelings to remain the same, as tarnished as we are by the tribulations that life dealt us.
One thing that has never changed are stories. Sure books have changed in price, sometimes even size, how they are marketed, and format (hybrid reader for life), but the stories hold you in that same way. They entertain you, they provide escape, they teach you how to feel, how to empathize, what to say, how to spot a shady character. Stories save you.
When you are forced to learn English for the first time at 5 by a teacher who likely taught at a residential school, she hammers your mother tongue out of you until all you can do is read to feel less isolated.
When you move away for the first time, your grade 1 teacher gifts you with a book about two best friends going up to the cottage for a relaxing weekend. She signs it with love and wishes you all the luck at your new school.
When you change schools again after you move out of the country you find yourself surrounded by those who speak your mother tongue fluently. They don't understand why you would want to read about a bunch of bears and beavers.
When you move back but this time you find friends who also love to read, you all take turns to read a little known book from your school library about a boy who lived and became a great wizard.
When you spent what felt like your whole life building friendships only to be forced to move across the country, you delve into what will become your favourite author of all time. She saves your life on numerous occasions because you're at that vulnerable age of puberty and teenager where everything is the end of the world. She teaches you that being a woman is strength and that you can overcome anything (thank you DWJ).
When you meet your best friend but you don't know it until you both gush about The Lord of the Rings and learn elvish together. Your friend quits but you kept on until you have memorized Galadriel's entire song.
When you and your best friend begin to question religions and discover Wicca and all the books that go with it. You learn to respect the earth and to take means more will be taken from you in turn. You learn to handle stress through meditation and you don't realize it then but this will help you for the rest of your life.
When you move to a different city again, but not too far away from your best friend, you turn to the stories they made you read in school. You turn your reports into expressions of your sadness and anger. You turn books into inspiration for your own writing. You write about the dark. And when the dark becomes too much and your friend's hands begin to pull you out, you resist. You sink. You read your pain away. You read to feel but you also read to dull parts of you.
When you move to your university campus and the world is your oyster, you forget about reading. In fact, even required reading is for those who can give education the time of day. Two years pass before you fully read another book again. The story wraps its familiar arms around you and tells you it will be alright. You remember why you loved reading and pull yourself to your feet, clutching a book in each hand and ready to take on the world again.
When you realize that sexual orientation isn't as simple as you thought, but finding stories about people like you is hard, you turn to stories online about real people.
When you get your first job you like outside of school as a bookseller. You haven't graduated yet but you're pretty sure you could do this for the rest of your life. You read constantly. It becomes easier to read than to eat. You make life long book friends who taught you their relationship with stories. You are changing, but the stories stay there. They guide you through life like a mother who is unseen and unappreciated for her true worth and security.
When you realize the colour of your skin makes it less likely to get the job of your dreams, you turn to other authors of colour for their stories of defeat and overcoming inequality.
When you deal with your first heartbreak, the stories are there waiting to pick you up again, and you realize sometimes you need to write your own story to heal.
When you finally land the job you've been working toward for half a decade in the publishing industry, you know that you are giving back to the stories that made you and those that saved you.
Stories shaped our education, our opinions, our view of the world, and how we deal with it. Stories provide safety and weapons. Stories give us the freedom to imagine what is possible.
We are the stories we read.