What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent? Did it influence the person you are now?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has long been one of my most favorite and influential books to date. Though in truth there are so many that helped shape who I have become. Each time I read Alice I take something new from the book. It’s the only book that I can say has grown with me when reading it during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. In my opinion, it makes this particular story timeless.
The loss of childhood innocence, learning quickly that the world will think you too small or too tall, never really being the right fit for what is needed. As an adolescent, this struck me to my core. In fact, I held on to it for far too long. During puberty and into early adulthood I had the horrible feeling of not being enough. It took me a long time to grow out of that – to figure out that I’m good with me and I don’t need approval to be me. Through this story, I, like Alice, learned that I am the right size, after all. I learned not to let the opinions of others dictate who I was to become.
The Cheshire Cat, with his broad grin and fearless behavior, can be thought of in so many translations. As a child, I thought him to be the secret, imaginary friend that tried to get you in trouble by leading you down a path you didn’t know and then disappearing. As an adolescent, I thought him to be cunning and too knowledgeable. The best line, for me, was when she asked which way to go and after she answered she didn’t know where when he asked, he simply said it doesn’t matter she will end up somewhere. How true is that? We never really know which path to take, but no matter which one it is, it leads us somewhere. There is hardly a right or wrong.
The Caterpillar is another example of changing each time I read this story. A simple three-word question and with it says everything. “Who are you?” She has such a difficult time answering him, you can only assume she doesn’t know who she is anymore. She’s changed. Don’t we all? She insults the cantankerous caterpillar by explaining it is dreadful being only 3 inches tall after all the caterpillar is only 3 inches tall. Alice who struggles with her own image judges harshly the caterpillar’s size though it’s the same as hers at the time. We often run into cantankerous, confusing people, but it doesn’t do well to insult them.
This story mostly taught me about adversities in life. How the world constantly changes and confuses. It taught me to expect the unexpected and learn that sometimes there is no logical answer to it and that’s ok, we’ll get through that maze one way or the other. In this way, the story taught me to be more open-minded, not to follow simply to follow and to go with my gut in all journeys through life. Life is a mess of puzzles, problems, oddities, and no two people are the same or think the same; we have to learn to accept it and move on.