"When I'm sick of the sky,
when I want to yield to the ocean,
who's gonna catch me when I fall?"
Luhan - Catch Me When I Fall (2016)
"A paradise of survival."
That's how my life has been for the past few years.
We all feel pain, loneliness. Like many others, through the suppression of your environment, you get depression. Life begins to fall apart. A "melancholic unreality". Trapped in a bird cage, unable to crawl out as you watch your life descend into madness.
To many, education through the last few years of high school was hell. To many, the pressure of education in an Asian environment descended you through the eighteen levels of hell to the very depths of despair. I remember those days when I cried and cried, whether it was because of school and not being able to catch up to the curriculum, whether it was because I was feeling useless, whether it was because I felt betrayal from my friends. I've asked myself many, many, many times the following:
What even is the meaning in life?
Why must you keep going?
Isn't it better to just, simply...
...end your life?
I pondered upon death for eons of seconds. The pain I would bring upon those around me, the consequences that I would bring upon those around me, the price I pay to leave this world while others on the other side of the globe desire to live, to the extents of living in an environment —where the environment itself might as well be the cause of death— just to see the world out there.
Then, I found my first answer.
They say that the strongest form of chains that anyone can yield are words.
I found the power to hold me back.
The infinite stories and worlds through every page and every sentence by every single author, whether it is contemporary or high fantasy. The beauty of the language they weave, the stunning sceneries of real life places or lands of fae, the radiance of each and every character and the light and hope within them, the glimmer of the intergalactic worlds of science fiction.
It was an escape for me. It was my magic of resurrection, a spell that I held on t keep going further and further. I forget about reality and dive myself into these worlds as the girl I admire to be, fall in love with whoever the heroine falls in love with, go on an adventure to the end of the world, heal one's own scars, accept the past and reach out to the future.
And it is knowing that there are so many book characters out there who have been through a dark past as well that makes my journey even more reassuring. We share something in common, and that is why I am able to dive myself in to understand them, to listen, to find my own answers as they find theirs.
But sometimes, it wasn't enough.
No one around you understood the world you saw. No one around you was someone who you could share your emotions truly with. They didn't see the world the way you saw it, they didn't feel the world you felt it, their problems never reached the level that you did. You hide all your deepest and darkest secrets because your family doesn't keep it a secret. You hide your fear and despair because your family only remembered their instinct of curiosity but not understanding. You try telling your closest friends. But as much as the fact that they understand most of you, you were still left alone when the darkness continued to envelope your heart and kept the bird locked further within the bird cage. You searched and sought for another anchor to hold on to. Something other than just the reaching hands from words or the imaginary friends you've been talking to since fourth grade.
And then, I found my second answer.
I turned to the next page of my story.
And found the people behind the Stories.
Authors, bloggers, fan account owners, cosplayers. A whole new community of people who possibly view the world like you do, who spend their time lying on their couch until their bottoms go numb from finishing a story in one sitting, people who fangirl about book characters because they're hot and sexy, people who share their connections with books and how books saved their lives as well. Book conventions and events, author signings, all these different places where people gather to meet and talk to each other, share their stories and share the stories that they love. Living all the way in Hong Kong, me ever attending any events where everyone else was seemed a little impossible. But I was able to meet an author who visited Hong Kong during her honeymoon as I went all the way searching high and low within a mall right after mock exams and managed to meet her later on during the evening, as well as a very kind BookTuber attending VidCon whom I met up with on a Saturday late night during my university tour.
There are no coincidences in this world, only the inevitable.
Our encounters were inevitable. And I promised these wonderful people that I've met, and I promised myself:
Just wait a little longer.
Until you can see them again.
We are the ones that cheer them on and give them the motivation to continue to create magnificent worlds and universes and characters, and despite the distance of over twelve hours by plane, they wouldn't want to see me disappear from their world so soon either. And they became my motivation to keep going.
So I held on.
I waited and counted for the days to be over.
Every time darkness took over me, I searched for that last spark of hope and held on to it for as long as I can.
I was granted a wish.
I was fortunate to be able to attend Book Expo and Book Con upon my graduation from high school in 2018. So many wonderful people of imagination and understanding, people that I've never met before that I finally get a chance to talk and connect with, people that aren't "infected" by the toxins from competition towards grades and choices of universities, people who have a much greater heart. I met the masterminds behind the greatest of pages, the anchors known as Books that was my tether to mother Earth. There were not one of them who wasn't wonderful, not one of them that made me feel the loneliness that has been eating my soul away for the past years.
It was the happiest that I've felt in a very, very long time.
It was true joy.
I knew that there are more worlds within books to discover.
More characters within books to encounter.
More authors who created these universes to meet in the future.
I escaped the reincarnation of sadness from adolescence,
I danced in joy as my heart continues to beat,
I treasured my paradigm of rebirth,
knowing that like a phoenix rising from the ashes,
I was saved by the page.