Thursday, April 16, 2015

Finishing and Bullying

I'm going to talk about a book series for a few minutes. Bear with me, it does have a point.

I started reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series sometime between 1996 and 1997. I can say that for certainty, because I remember having to wait for the 8th book to be published, and that came out in 1998.

That means I began reading the series when I was nine or ten years old.

I am now 28.

Wheel of Time has been one of my favorite book series for decades. I've read the first seven books numerous times, and 8 and 9 a couple of times. However, when I read Crossroads of Twilight in 2003 (when I was a sophomore in high school), I was a bit irked.

Up until book ten, I thought the plot had moved quickly and I love the characters. I was a bit annoyed with how much time was spent on other characters besides Rand (who was supposed to be the main character), but I still enjoyed the books.

All that changed when I read book ten. The plot was slow. In fact, it was so slow that it was practically nonexistent. All the other books before that point had a fairly rapidly moving plot and a conclusion. Not only did book ten have no conclusion, barely any progress was made at all.

I remember telling someone after I read it that it was like everyone took two steps forward and that was it. Rand, the main character, wasn't even mentioned until nearly the end of the book. I was frustrated at that point, and for a long time I lost interest in reading the series.

Robert Jordan produced another book in 2005, but I didn't read it. Then, a couple of years later, he passed away.

I was sure that his death would be a very disappointing end to what had started out as a great series, but his wife hired a different author, and based upon Robert Jordan's extensive notes, three more books were created and the series was completed in 2013.

A year or so ago, I felt a kindling of interest resurface, and I borrowed book number 12 from the library. This was the first book that Brandon Sanderson had helped to author. To my joy and surprise, it was like encountering an old friend. The pace was fast, and I was captivated. However, I quickly realized that I didn't completely know what was going on.

So, at the end of last year I decided to re-read the series. Grig decided to read it as well. When I finished the first book, he picked it up. In the last six months I have read thirteen of his books. I read the first seven in a couple of months, and then it took me a few more to read books 8-10. They were  a bit slow, and not among my favorite of his books.

Two weeks ago, I finished book number ten again.

It wasn't quite as bad as I remembered it being. There were some interesting things that happened, but it was still a relief to be done with it, because then I was entering the realm that I'd really been looking forward to...reading books I hadn't read before.

I haven't blogged much in the last couple of weeks. I'm afraid that's because I've been reading quite a bit. Mostly it's been at night when Grig and Kevin are asleep, but because of it, I've been staying up later and not getting up as early, which has made it difficult to find time to write.

The more I've read the more excited I've become.

I finished book number thirteen a few moments ago. I only have one book left in the series, and it makes me a little sad. Finally, this old friend of mine will have a conclusion. It will be nice to get to the finishing line with these familiar characters that I've known for nearly two decades. It will also be an accomplishment in my life.

Recently, a tragedy occurred to someone I love that has set me to thinking a lot lately.

In part, this tragedy occurred because of bullying. It's made me think about my own high school and junior high years.

This is a great video about bullying and how we need to stop it.

High school was not always a happy time for me. It wasn't as bad as junior high, where I frequently cried after school from loneliness. I would go home, turn on Karen Carpenter's song "Only Yesterday," and drop on my bed to have a good cry. The first verse always really resonated with me. It says:

After long enough of being alone
Everyone must face their share of loneliness
In my own time nobody knew
The pain I was goin' through
And waitin' was all my heart could do

Hope was all I had until you came
Maybe you can't see how much you mean to me
You were the dawn breaking the night
The promise of morning light
Filling the world surrounding me
At the time, I didn't have anyone who had filled that void, but I did feel that "nobody knew the pain I was going through."

I never considered myself bullied when I was in those grades. However, when I think back on it, I realize that I did experience bullying. I had kids be downright rude to me, and often those I thought were my friends hurt me deeply.

However, as I've thought about it, I've wondered why I didn't struggle more. Though I was frequently in pain (and occasionally thought about running away), I never really wanted to leave my life. I think there are three reasons for that.

In writing these three things out, I don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to make myself look good or show that I was perfected as handling criticism and loneliness, because I wasn't.

These are just the ways that I personally coped with trials.
#1: Family
I knew my family loved me (even if we didn't always get along perfectly). I knew I could go to my parents about anything and they would make time to talk to me.  
I have been so blessed with loving and supportive parents. 

#2: Church
The gospel had been a guiding light in my life since I was small. In times when I've really struggled, I turned to prayer, and I found someway to endure. 
Without the church, I would be a very different person today. Even if you don't believe the same things I do, I can tell you truthfully that the teachings that I follow have helped me become a good person. 

#3: Books (Escapism)
In junior high, I read a ton. People probably thought I was crazy. I tried to devour everything in my school's library. I consistently received over 1500 Accelerated Reader points every year (which might mean nothing to you, but at the time it was a source of pride for me), and I even competed with the school's librarian to see who could read more.  
What the other kids didn't understand is that the books were my friends. In them, I was popular, I was the hero, and I was always surrounded by people. The harder life got, the more I had to bury myself into a book to escape it. 
The Wheel of Time was one of the series that I read during this part of my life, which is one of the reasons that it has a special place in my heart. 
I've since learned that this actually isn't a very healthy way to deal with stress.
When I was separated from my book-world, it made me pretty unhappy. In fact, if I was reading a tense moment, I was pretty heavily invested emotionally, and if I was called away before it was resolved, that tenseness would remain with me and I would channel it. I'm sure my siblings always appreciated that.  
These three things got me through a pretty tough time. I don't read as much as I used to (except maybe this last week when I've read three 800-900 page books), and I've found other ways to cope with stress. Books have become a hobby as opposed to my life, but I'm grateful for how they helped me deal with loneliness when it felt like no one in the world loved me.

We never know what's going on inside somebody else's head. Having felt loneliness in my youth, I really empathize with others and hate it when I see someone sitting alone.

I try really hard not to judge others, and to try and see things from their perspective. This has occasionally placed me in the role of peacemaker, and it pleases me when I can help people settle conflict.

Life can be difficult, but it's important to keep going. We never know that pain that we will cause others if we leave them behind prematurely. Life does get better. I know that sometimes it doesn't seem like it ever will, but it eventually does get better.

Finishing what we start is important. It might have taken me two decades, but tonight (after Grig brings home the final book from the library for me) I will begin that last book in this very long series. I know that I'm going to feel great when I can finally say that I've finished it.

Won't it feel great when we get to the end of our lives and we can look back and see how we endured and finished?
Sometimes that isn't possible for everyone, but we should do what we can to make everyone's journey a little easier. It's always more fun to be traveling with real people than fictional ones, and nothing makes me happier than to discuss books I love with my husband.

Please treat those around you with kindness. I know I have ways that I can do better at that as well. We live in an age where people can be cruel anonymously and think that they aren't affecting anyone, or that there are no consequences for their actions.

This is such a lie.

There is no such thing as anonymity and actions without consequences. We are deluding ourselves if we think that what we say and do doesn't matter. It's not just the bad either. Good actions can have enormous, positive consequences as well.

We don't know what other people are going through, and how they're coping, but we can always do things to ease their burdens. Life's hard enough as it is.

Let's all try to finish together.


  1. <3
    I read the Wheel of Time books around the same time (and finally finished them last fall!). I also tend to read a lot when I am stressed--as escapism.

    1. Yeah, I'm having to learn to do it less. It doesn't actually solve my problems, though it is sure nice to get away sometimes.

  2. I could have written much of your post. Escapism, books, listening to music in a dark room, (except for elme it was Sarah McLaughlin & Aerosmith & Live)....everything. I don't know what to say but Amen & I am so sorry you lost a friend to other's cruelty.

    I am kind of tempted to read the wheel of time books now. Kind of scared, too, about how it might take over my life. My dad and brother loved those.

    1. I'm glad that other people can relate to what I've written. I appreciate you reading and commenting, Sarah. You are a good friend.