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I am a Ruiner of Books

The delicate preciousness of new paper and the soft grainy texture on its surface, palpable even in thought. Ah, the bliss of newness.

I treat my books like they're family. I like having them close, by my bedside, on my bed, with me anywhere I go, at least one of them anyway. But to the horror of many who have seen my books, I mark them. At first I understood their disgust for markings on books, and it makes absolute sense for library books but for books I own? Ones I know I'm never going to sell? I don't quite understand the horror or digust. But more than once, people have looked at me like I'm mad, so I thought I'd write about it here just to present my case.

I was one of you, I'd never write in my books, let the margins be bare spaces that glared at me, like the stone-set pathway of a grand garden. If I ever wanted to note things I'd use pencils or post-its. But when I started using a lot of second-hand books, I was torn. There were some books that were completely bare, no words written in them, and then there were books that had text written in them, and I got a tiny bit annoyed at that. It does make sense to not write things in nicer classics that you know you won't re-read, and will probably end up donating. That is a nice and sensible thing to do for someone who will own it next. But my specific line of defence is that I'm talking about books I'm absolutely sure I will always keep. There's something perennial about writing in your books and making a mark that will last so much longer than you will. A thought, an after-thought or an emotion etched in your handwriting, filling up all the spaces jaggedly around the neatly lined paragraphs. An instance that gives a solid meaning to you, to who you are, in the present. It's an essential glance into who you are because it's so immediate, the sliding eyes reading one word after another and your brain throwing a new thought at you, spun from the printed thought on the paper by someone you don't know, and maybe never will. I like my favourite books to look like they've been used, like they've had their spines twisted for a better grip, that their pages were upturned at corners because they were put into a bag haphazardly, because I'd lost track of time and I had something else to do. There's an eerie magic in the zone you get into while reading and so the book I mark has to be good at making me feel enough emotion(whether good or bad) for me to stop and take a minute to write something in it.

I like my books to be pliable in their binding because, well, obviously the things written inside it won't change.

I don't want to develop an intense case of becoming a hoarder, but I am a little sentimental. Loneliness is something I've faced enough times to befriend and I guess writing in my books, with pen, makes me feel like I'm leaving something more concrete behind, something that means more than my simple existence. It's deeper than a mere inclination to scribble in books, like everything in life... it's a teensie bit more complicated. It solidifies the urge I feel, to make a mark even if it's only in my favourite books. A very Indie-coming-of-age movie motif, I guess, but it gives me a sense of relief. I don't know if it counts as romanticising my life unnecessarily, but honestly, aren't most things that make you happy an after-effect of romanticising things that happen in your life or to you? Isn't beauty romantic? Is it really that bad to have space for yourself that blooms over time? I don't think it is.

Somehow, writing in my books makes me feel more confident, generally and about my opinions specifically too. It reinstates the belief that I'm allowed to do the things I want to do, that if I feel like writing something in empty margins and filling up spaces in books with ribbons of sentences? Then I can do it. Neat rule following isn't something that's given me the happiness I've wanted from it... and surprise surprise, I can do anything I want to do, if I really want to do it. There's a sense of ease in that thought. There's beauty in living in the moment and caressing the pages of your book before tattooing it with pieces of you and your words. I mean 'me', not 'you', I don't know why I remove myself from my own thoughts and talk about it like it's someone else I'm talking about. Maybe it's because I'm scared someone will catch some thought and point out how flawed I am, or how wrong, or how selfish, but in all honesty and reality, there will always be someone who will think that about me. Someone who is hell-bent on highlighting every mistake I've made in the past, even though I've been hell-bent on being better and making sure I never make the same mistake again. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I fail at that and it takes making the same mistakes twice or thrice for patterns to truly seep into my brain and stay there. But, I think I should be allowed that, I should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them and try my hardest to never repeat them again. I should be allowed to 'human' but I'm so scared of groups, of anonymous crowds everywhere who'd stop me from doing that... but that is just my fears amplified, my selfish fears that centre all around the idea of everything ME ME ME. Isn't this anxiety a little selfish? To assume, it's you everyone's thinking about?

Books, and the stories in them, remind me of myself almost always. I wonder why I'm so forgiving and empathetic towards characters, who are usually fictional, but I'm barely that kind to myself. And so, writing and marking my books has become something kind I give myself access to exercise; a cheat day kind of activity I don't make myself feel guilty about.

So, dearest reader, if you're like me and forbid yourself from doing somethings then I'd highly recommend you to try and let yourself do things that give you a sense of control, a sense of quiet calm, and things that allow you to be kind to yourself because it is in kindness to your own self that you will discover a kindness for others; it's something I believe in with all my soul.

It doesn't have to be writing in books, it could be anything that makes you feel a goodness that only comes with being kind to yourself... A kindness unparalleled in terms of the wonders it can do for you and your confidence.

I am a ruiner of books, and I'm fine with it. The creases in their spines are roads I've explored and travelled through enough times to find comfort in the markings I'd have made for my sweet remembrance. The hastily curled pages that are crooked at the bottom, from being stowed in weird corners and squished in bags full to the brim. All of it, is my own. My markings are like on a grave, in an incandescence that could only be my own. What can I say? I enjoy being a ruiner of books.

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