By Dylan Steiner
Prior to entering high school, my life was filled with opportunities to lose myself in the boundless borders of remarkable stories. I spent time reading fictional pieces ripe with tales of fantastical events and mysterious premonitions. The shelves of my bookcase threatened to buckle under abundant creations from J.K Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Ursula K. Le Guin; my mind engaged in descriptions of unlikely places I only wished I could visit, and my feelings connected to the conflict of meaningful characters I felt I knew personally.
However, with the advent of high school, and the inevitable onslaught of heavy course work and summer assignments, I found time available for leisurely reading gradually slipping away from me. No longer could I return from a tiring day at school and delve into a different subconscious; no longer could I put aside the day’s feelings with the experiences of another. With pained remorse, I realized the climax of my childhood exploits into tales of adventure and the unknown were coming to a close; the denouement of my forays into the pages in which I found solitude was upon me; my exposure to literary expression slackened under the bane now ahead.
While dust settled on the names of those authors who provided me with tranquility, I soon realized that honors English would prevent my parting from the bound book; it would be the bookend to keep together the knowledge I had garnered from my past readings. It was sturdy, keeping me from comfortably returning to those genres I found interest in, but also loose, allowing me to expand my repertoire of beloved novels. Above all, the over-arching reason I value my English education is because it has exposed me to books I would never have confronted on my own. The Odyssey, with its infamous ability to frighten freshmen through sheer length alone, seemed comparable with journeys I had paged through before, but its human nature and distinct portrayal of flaws and family reminded me to persevere through my own trial and tribulations. High school is, undoubtedly, an odyssey, Scylla the stress, and the patient Penelope nothing short of the sanity I hope to return to upon completing this tumultuous venture. And, as I pressed on, more novels clamored for my attention, and indubitably captured my passion for reading with their witty plotlines and memorable characters: although I had read the boyish Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn presented a deep and winding juncture between just and unjust; To Kill a Mockingbird forced me to explore my moral principles; Of Mice and Men taught me to not always expect favorable conclusions.
Sophomore year was filled with tales of loss and gain, rags to riches, and more importantly, a growth of my own reflective character. Macbeth introduced me to the downfall of human nature, while Cyrano de Bergerac thrust at me with a comedic view of appearances and realities. Great Expectations garnered my interest with Pip’s unlikely possession of a great fortune and his ensuing idiocy, while the eponymous Siddhartha carried me with him on his path to enlightenment devoid of the wealth Pip enjoyed. All Quiet on the Western Front relayed a monotonous setting on indescribable events and the tragedy of the lost generation which touched me deep inside.
Junior year offered a chance of self-analysis through the methodical work characteristic of the American people: The Great Gatsby charmed with its tell-tale view of materialism and money, The Things They Carried moved me with its personalized narrative, and Their Eyes Were Watching God drew me in to a tale of personal relationships with potency of personality and strength of symbolism.
Regardless of my original despair at the loss of my time to read at a personal discretion, high school English has molded in me a desire to encounter and investigate new pathways and genres outside the high fantasy of my youth. In a society where an alarming percentage of adults never read another book after their educational years, I am confident my passion for literature will only continue to grow more comprehensive.