In order to keep up with one of my goals for this year (that is, to read 42 books), I started reading the much-hyped John Green books. Call me hipster or whatever, but I try my best not to indulge myself with something just because it’s the talk of the town. I want to watch or read something because I’m genuinely interested in it.
I think what I like best about John Green’s writing style is that whether you like how the story is going or not, or whether you’re getting attached to the characters or not, you will keep reading. It’s the kind of book you can actually finish in one seating (and I don’t mean for that to sound like a compliment, because it’s not always the case).
I’m on my third book now, which is Looking for Alaska (The Fault in Our Stars was first, followed by Paper Towns). The writer seems to have a bit of a fascination for high school romance, because the main characters of all three books are teenagers–which, of course, is a perfectly understandable choice for a ~genre~ because one’s teenage years can really be rich in stories. I can go on and on about what I think of John Green’s works, but because I’m already on the third paragraph of this entry and I really haven’t gone to my main point yet, I’ll just talk about one.
At first, it pissed me off that he wrote book-quoting characters. The Fault in Our Stars’ Hazel Grace Lancaster can’t stop talking about a book called An Imperial Affliction. In Paper Towns, Quentin Jacobsen thought he could figure out where Margo Roth Spiegelman is by reading and rereading Leaves of Grass, a book of poems. And now, Miles Halter of Looking for Alaska goes to a boarding school in search of his “Great Perhaps”, an idea he got from reading biographies, particularly of Francois Rabelais’s. The skill Miles is most proud of is knowing famous people’s last words, and Rabelais’s last words goes like this : “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”
To me, it seemed pretentious to have characters–teenagers, no less–whose decisions were somehow based on, not music, not friends, but books. I don’t mean to dumb down teenagers, but I’m sure we all know it’s the phase of discovery–and the library is surely the least visited place of a typical teenager.
But I digress, because I realized I was just finding fault in this writer. Not out of jealousy, but because I don’t want people to think I’m joining the hype (I know, hipster ugh). But deep inside, I know that there’s something John Green is already right about: the power of words.
Words brought Hazel and her then-boyfriend Augustus Waters to Amsterdam just to meet the writer of An Imperial Affliction. Words made Quentin overanalyze a highlighted poem (and don’t we always overanalyze, anyway?). And words pushed Miles to stop settling for the routinary life he already got used to. To these fiction characters, the words that called out to them were the words that spoke to their inner being. When they read these books, it was at the right time, and for the right reasons. And so, even if few to nobody knew these words, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that the written word did not just make them read; it also made them do.
That words can call someone to action is something that still amazes me to this day. In the beginning, God’s words created the universe, the earth, and humans. In John 1, Jesus is referred to as the Word, who was with God, and who was God. Some of the world’s movers, shakers, and game changers have already died, but their words live on; their quotes, to this day, are still being put up in bedroom walls, carved in stones, and shared everyday, online or not.
And so, do not withhold your words. Well, yeah, you can argue with me and say “But if you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything“, but that’s where I’ll cut in and tell you that words should bring life. Like God’s creative words, they should create, not destroy. So maybe words identified as “not good” shouldn’t be considered words to begin with–that’s why they should remain unspoken.
Because words are meant to be spoken and written. And shared, ultimately. You may not always see the effect, but out there, someone has been encouraged by your words. Someone believed again, loved again, and lived again, because you said what you said. To you, it may seem like something you’d say any day, but to the hearer, it could be words they’ve not heard all their life. Words that spoke to them, called to them, woke them up and brought them back to life.
My love language is not Words of Affirmation, but rather, Quality Time. I love spending time with people. I love talking to them, going to places with them, and knowing them more. Of course if you want to spend time with people, you don’t just sit around a coffee shop and stare at each other. You talk for hours, to no end, until someone has to say the saddest four words: I have to go.
In college, I would always devote my time for people. My principle is that if someone cared enough to ask me to hang out with them for just a little while more, then this person deserved my whole attention for the time that we are to be together. I actually found my college best friends because I spent time with them. Best Friend Number One is someone I had a crush on when I was just a freshie, but as I spent more and more time with him I realized he was someone I’d rather be friends with. Best Friend Numbers Two and Three are girls I met while practicing for a class play during freshman year. From there, we’d go to sleepovers, eat at restaurants, and watch movies and plays. Best Friend Numbers Four and Five are also girls who have the same passion as mine: writing. We worked on an investigative story in junior year, but on the side we’d talk about our feelings in fast food chains and pedestrian lanes.
I met my first love because of quality time. We had these bets that took us to places, and I spent most of my junior year with him. But it was also lack of quality time–and other reasons irrelevant to the discussion–that ended that. My first heartbreak was messy, and when I finally got myself to try getting over him, I hid from people. In the first semester of my senior year, I hid in the old library, behind my readings and thesis and dramas.
I didn’t realize until second semester that it was people I needed the most at such a trying time. Best Friend Number One did not side with either of us, but he understood what I was going through and tried to explain things I did not want to accept. Best Friend Numbers Two and Three saw me cry while we were working on our thesis, and they told me it’s gonna be okay. It’s not okay then, but it was bound to be. And it really did become okay. Best Friend Number Four and Five always made me smile with words that were not only amusing, but also very loving. Words like Pwede ka nang maging love columnist or Ang tapang mo gave me strength to finally, finally get over him.
And so, I reiterate: Do not withhold your words. I’m writing this because it took me a long time before I could share my words again to people. I withheld my words because I did not believe in them enough. I had to warm up again to the company of people, learning to stop doubting everything they say.
You may be no John Green or Jose Rizal, but your words matter to somebody. Please create something magical. Please, do not withhold your words from them.