Why I’m Addicted to Stories

I’ve always had a long and fairly spectacular list of things I want to do, such as being a rich mechanical engineer (emulate Tony Stark as much as is humanly possible, and then some), being an astronaut, being an author, following ballet and jazz as a career, being a travel writer, and being a ninja pirate. I’ve always been in a bit of a rush, because it seemed to me like I’ve an awful lot of stuff to fit in, and not that much time. I wanted to know about everything, and tore through books at the rate of knots from the moment I could read, subconsciously trying to cram in as much as possible before my ticker tocked its last.

Then it hit me. I knew already that I wasn’t going to live for ever, but had always planned on packing in as bloody much as I could cram: stuffing the metaphorical scuffed leather suitcase of my life until the brass clasp strained to hold it all in; until the thread strained and pulled at the little punched holes along the seams. It hit me hard, a breathtaking blow.

I was only going to live one life.

I couldn’t do it all. My dreams and ideas of what the future was going to hold for me spun around my head. I felt shattered, torn, as though life had sucked me in, chewed me up, and spat me out. I wasn’t going to do it all. I wasn’t going to get to be a ballerina, perform in Moscow, live in London, own 50 pairs of pointe shoes; be a travel writer, journey alone through China, write while sipping wine on the orient express; be an award winning novelist, touch people’s hearts, invent worlds of magic and adventure; be in the Navy, see the world by sea, work on peacekeeping missions. While choosing one of these paths might be possible, all the things I could never, ever do struck me. I could never know what it feels like to get the subway home from school in New York; to be a child in Tokyo in the spring; to be part of a tribe lost in time, living in the sticky-hot Amazon basin; to be home-schooled in an apartment over looking the Seine. 

I began to read even more voraciously now, like a famine survivor tearing into food as though my life depended on it. Books provided me with the stories of things I would never experience, the next best thing to actually living the lives of the characters, a chance to stop this vast amazing world from whizzing by without me getting to experience every damn second of life happening. While books were, and continue to be my main source of stories, I also began consuming films and songs that held the plots, settings and characters I needed so much, the stories I was addicted to.

Then I started to think about my story… what about the people who’ve never experienced the stuff I’ve experienced? Who’ve never felt the throbbing pain mingled with achievement as you balance en pointe in arabesque? Who’ve never snorkeled in a bog, in freezing weather, seen your friends entirely plastered in mud, except for their sparkling eyes, gleaming from their uniformly mud-caked faces? How could I let my lifetime of experiences, of smells, of textures, of feelings and sights slip away without the world hearing and taking notice? To a regular passer by, my life may seem boring, uneventful, stuck in rural Ireland… and sometimes, that’s true. But mostly it’s an explosion of colour and actions, and I struggle to capture them all, from the way butter, flour and sugar magically turns from breadcrumb-like lumps to smooth dough between your fingers, then when heated transforms to biscuit, to the metallic smell of blood, and the iron tang in your mouth when you burst your lip.

Snatching these experiences from life and pinning them down to paper became my obsession; I was terrified I’d let them flutter away, and I’d forget. 

But, I’m slowly recovering. I still slice through books like a hot knife through butter, and write a fair deal more then most people my age, but I’ve learned to control it. Sometimes, your better off living life then frantically trying to record it. Because you never know what you might miss when you’re scribbling away.

Maeve (@maevelizzy)

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