Common App (Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?)
The soft reminder of warm light, the neat rows of novels and biographies and volumes of poetry against mahogany shelves back to back in a literary continuum… I walk further into Barnes and Noble. Swim in circles around the small brown tables in the center, feel the raised letters of the titles wedged under ‘Books That Make You Think’. I’ve been here a thousand times before and yet still feel the exhilarating serenity of the quiet hum of people, the stacks of unread books, the particular excitement of the aroma of anticipated coffee, each trip a unique euphoria and different exhilaration. I have been here since I was five years old, since my mom let me loose in the children’s section, still jumping and peering and feeling the hard indention of the unbent spines stacked definitely on same, if not higher, wooden shelves.
I walk diagonally and make zigzags, crane my neck, peering curiously at the fresh copy of Harry Potter; experience the illumination of the Great Hall, the swish and flick of wands, the heavy familiarity of the white waiting pages. Jump to get at Sylvia Plath’s evasive Ariel, perched high on the top shelf where only the tips of my fingers graze. Ariel is especially important to me. When I first came pushing home with it, red-cheeked and adolescent-awkward, I was fourteen. Feeling my way, blindly, through the frightening reality of high school and coming of age, I leafed through it at night, my small lamp perched precariously in the dark. I discovered very new, and very different ideas. The idea of the radical housewife, inherent feminist, I saved dog-eared and bookmarked, the poem Lesbos a new and interesting perspective. I didn’t understand what feminism was and was shocked and stimulated to see it so bluntly manifested in the poem.
Only later, after the catalyst of Ariel did I render its full significance, unaware of the importance activism and equality would have for me later on. This kind of literature ushered me past the quiet, safe teenage fiction I had been engrossed in, leading dangerously and provocatively into new territory. For me, books like Ariel are important not only as a result of their convincing stories but also because they shaped me in all my totality and complexity as a human being. It is important to be able to understand others, a skill that is typed and sealed in the form of a novel. Since then, when I discovered history, literature, and poetry, and then history and literature and poetry in the same book, I have not left. Literature, engrained in my life as enduringly as the lines on the back of my hands, has changed and bettered me, causing me to be not only more aware, but significantly better-rounded. It has introduced me to history, philosophy, bettered my vocabulary, made me a more adept writer, and become my most luxurious pastime. What’s more, I found my safe haven, away from the loud and running world in my two hundred pages of print, bound, typed, and delivered in the form of an escape and a passion that has wholly transformed my interests and personality.
I feel that books are a universal medium of understanding, connecting people of all denominations, creeds, and ideas. They incite the excitement and security not exclusive only to myself but those in all history of readers who have enjoyed and reveled in the same literary comforts as I, and experienced the very similar ache and desire for understanding and learning.