“He’s something, isn’t he? […] He’s a wallflower.”
In the 8th grade, I had a friend that had circulated her copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and everyone who read it would write down their names on the back cover.
My sophomore year, another friend had nothing else to talk about besides how Perks changed her life. So when I started senior year, I decided to give it another chance and finished that small paperback in two days.
It didn’t change my life.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Bossypants — those books changed my life in one way or another. I didn’t understand why everyone was so wrapped up in this little neon green book.
I was influenced by the books Charlie read, the music he listened to, the way he writes. I was influenced by his simple thought process and envied relationships with the people in the book. But I didn’t catch on to the overwhelming connection that everyone else seemed to be having.
So why didn’t I? Wasn’t this supposed to be the book of my generation? Wasn’t this supposed to be the integral novel that I would end up referencing in future college essays or passing along to my kids as tools for growing up?
I was a self-proclaimed wallflower who needed familiarity and ample amounts of time to become comfortable with normal social interaction. On paper, I was Charlie. I spend time analyzing things beyond reason, confidence about the size of a dime, sitting here and there quietly observing, keeping things to myself. I used books to get others to relate to my life and I still use music to express whatever can’t be expressed. Maybe it was that everyone related to this awkward bundle of uhms and paced talking, I wanted to be too.
“You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”
Because I could never be Charlie, I found my “being Charlie” drive in Pudge.
“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. (…) You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”
Pudge is the protagonist in John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and on paper, I’m not a Pudge. But, I was what everything Pudge was questioning: getting out of a labyrinth and seeking that “Great Perhaps” of your life.
“I came here looking for a Great Perhaps, for real friends and a more-than-minor life..”
“We are all going, I thought […] The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we’d learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”
Seeking that Great Perhaps of maybe whatever next opportunity was presented to me or even what I’d fight for myself—the adventures with my friends, the opened doors from jobs, whatever this place had to offer—was what I connected to. It was the apparent longing that 20-somethings all have of figuring out our lives.
“For she had embodied the Great Perhaps – she had proved to me that it was worth it to leave behind my minor life for grander maybes, and now she was gone and with her my faith in perhaps.”
Maybe wallflowers don’t always have to stick to themselves.