In my reading life I’ve had an abundance of reading experiences where I’ve felt extremely moved and even like something in me has shifted. Books that have challenged me. Books that made me think a lot. Books that have rocked me to the core.
But I’ve only had a handful of books that I could say ACTUALLY changed my life in a tangible way. Like caused me to take action and change something. Made things truly different.
One of the books in recent times was Just One Day by Gayle Forman (I know, I know…I talk about this book all the time but IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME and really damn good). I read this one in November 2012, as I was fortunate enough to receive a galley, and I remember just devouring it while Will and I were visiting my dad over Thanksgiving. I stayed up late. I sneaked in reading time while others were napping. It was just that book I think I was MEANT to read right then as some of my life was kind of mirroring where the main character was at in ways.
I was feeling stuck. Doing things because that’s the way they were even though I was unhappy. Devoting all my time to a group of friends that wasn’t reflective of who I was anymore (and were a little bit toxic for me) because I had ALWAYS been friends with them since high school & college. I wasn’t doing things *I* internally wanted to do because I was always doing what THEY wanted to do. I just felt like I was straddling this line between the person who I was (though internally and externally they seemed different) and the person who I wanted to be but I just really felt confused as to who I really was.
“I don’t know who I am. Or maybe I do know who I am and I just don’t want to be her anymore.”
Just One Day just kind of took me by the shoulders and shook me as I watched Allyson find herself. As I watched Allyson open herself up to all these new things and stop just living so passively. So much of my own life problems I was watching unfold in Allyson’s journey that I was like “DID GAYLE KNOW THAT I NEEDED THIS BOOK? MAYBE SHE WROTE IT FOR ME? UNLIKELY BUT THIS IS SCARILY HITTING CLOSE TO HOME HERE.” I kept reading, not only because I loved the story and the characters, but because I felt like I would find the answers to what I needed to do in Allyson’s journey. And I did.
“And this is the truth. Because I may be only eighteen, but it already seems pretty obvious that the world is divided into two groups: the doers and the watchers. The people things happen to and the rest of us, who just sort of plod on with things. The Lulus and the Allysons. It never occurred to me that by pretending to be Lulu, I might slip into that other column, even for just a day.”
I realized I, like Allyson, was being a watcher these days. I just was kind of existing in the status quo, unhappily, and was just letting life come and go rather than really LIVING and DOING. I kept hoping for better things or the things that I wanted to be true of my life….but I wasn’t doing anything to get them. At all. And I just kept plodding on. I wasn’t putting myself in the path of it — something that Allyson was finding out you needed to do if you wanted things to happen.
When I finished the book I was just weeping. Because it was a damn good book. But also because I knew what I had to do. I knew that I could not read these words and feel these things that mirrored my own life and just not do something about it. It was like I was being sent my own little message for my life and I would be stupid not to listen. It felt overwhelming. But then I remembered this quote from the book that put it into perspective:
“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”
So, in the days following my reading of that book, I decided that a break-up was in order for a friend group that was kind of toxic for me/wasn’t working for me anymore (I maybe didn’t go about it the right way but I kind of needed to quit them cold turkey because they were such a HUGE part of my life and the thing that I felt was holding me back from doing the things I wanted). I decided to start a book club and had one up and running by January (my book club story and tips for starting your own). I started saying yes to things. I let myself start saying NO to things I felt like I couldn’t prior to reading this book. And for the first time in a long time I actually felt like I was more ME than I had been in a long time.
Just One Day was the kick in the pants I needed to change things that I knew needed to be changed a while before it. I just didn’t have the courage to change them. Allyson’s story resonated so much, all that forward action, that it made me PHYSICALLY change things after reading them. It was liberating. It was a gift in a lot of ways but I think of my life how it is right now, totally not perfect but I’m ME and I’m living the way I want to, and how my life probably would have continued on had I not read this book and I’m so thankful for it that I don’t have adequate enough words.
“Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.”
And that’s simple what I did. I opened myself up. Put myself in the path of the things I wanted. I said yes (but also realized that sometimes saying NO to one thing is also saying YES to other things).
That book changed my life. I mean, completely flipped it upside down and made it so it was impossible to continue on the way I was. And I am so, so thankful for the words that I needed to hear at exactly the right time in my life.
NOW. I would love to know about any books that changed YOUR LIFE. Please tell me!!!! Books are just magical like that and I need to know!