Why I read. Those who read my blog post from early May (or glanced at the title of this post...) might know the answer. I read to gain perspective on the world around me. Reading with this purpose, or in general, helps us gain empathy and affords us the opportunity to view things differently - oftentimes challenging our ideals or beliefs, other times strengthening the ones we had.
Perspective allows us to overcome those pesky annoyances we experience, re-focusing our attention on the bigger picture. This lighthouse of sorts, gives us the guidance we need despite seeing the world around us, “gradually being turned into a wilderness." As we, "hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, [we] can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if [we] look up into the heavens, [we] think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, [we] must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when [we] shall be able to carry them out.”
These wise words were captured and bestowed upon humanity in a diary of a freshly turned 15 year-old woman, Anne Frank. In middle school and high school, I read many classics in literature as part of the curriculum, but never had the privilege of reading The Diary of a Young Girl until only recently. But boy, am I glad I did.
Anne walks the reader through the many journeys she experiences, including that all-too-difficult transition between child and young adult (or at least attempting to be treated as one - been there...). Throughout each and every logged journal entry, addressed to Kitty - the name of her diary - I am incredibly amazed by not only her resolve and self-deprecating humor, but also by her intellect and writing ability. She was truly gifted beyond all comparison for a thirteen-to-fifteen-year-old girl. Reading her witty, articulate musings and feeling her raw emotions through one of the darkest times in human history brought me tremendous joy, sadness, laughter, and hope.
Anne was an aspiring journalist, her heart intent on bucking the status quo of a woman's place in the workforce. She was determined to turn her life from negative to positive, and to do the same for others. This level of ambition and resolve is not something we see or hear from most teenagers - I know when I was that age, my life revolved around one thing: sports. Nice, really important stuff, Jacob...🙄
Anne’s story is unlike most. At thirteen, Anne was pulled away from her school, her friends, her life...sent away to live with her immediate family (amongst others) in a ‘secret annex’ in the heart of Amsterdam to escape the Nazis. Priority number one was the evasion of occupying forces that would surely send her and her Jewish family to internment camps if discovered. Anne delves into what life was like in this secret annex - the relationships of those she was now living with, this new 'world' around her, and life outside her confines based on what she read, listened to on the radio, or picked-up in conversation with other adults.
Being granted the opportunity to be in Anne’s mind, hearing her thoughts, her frustrations, her anxieties, her fears, her joys, her interests, was, in a word, inspiring. For her to keep that level of humor, passion, and hope despite living in an attic in constant fear for two years is absolutely remarkable, yet tremendously tragic knowing her ultimate fate.
Listening to only a sliver of her life put things into great perspective for me. Now, more than ever, I appreciate my current living conditions, the food I am able to eat, even the ability to feel sunshine, smell flowers, and feel a breeze across my face - all of these 'mundane' things I've been taking for granted now feel valued.
This book is one of my favorites. I highly, highly encourage everyone to read it. I, for one, know that I will do my best to carry forth the resolve, passion, and hope that young Anne Frank so relentlessly possessed. For wherever “...there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
Let us all read on and allow books to fill us up with this same dose of much-needed perspective - a shot of courage to take on this world, which is gradually being turned into a wilderness.
Thank you, Anne.