Some people may say reading fiction is a waste of time because if you want to know something practical about life, looking up information in self-help books is faster. I understand that because that was the reason why I used to avoid fiction. It seemed meaningless to take time to read someone’s stories. However, I realized that self-improvement books didn’t always resonate with me when I was mentally down. Instead, reading fiction helped me a lot.
It was when I experienced a breakup with someone for the first time in my life. It was me who told him good-bye, but I blamed myself later for hurting someone. I was losing my mind. I was thinking about what was wrong with me, why our relationship had to end, and gradually came to see myself as the worst person in the worald. Then I wondered, “What is love?” I needed some logical explanations or answers to this question. So, I went to a bookstore, looking through straightforward titles like “How to love someone” and “The magic of love.” Some books spoke from a psychological point of view, and others introduced how to cast a spell on someone, etc. They were interesting, but at some point, I thought they were only giving information. What I needed was something else.
One day, I recalled one of my friends saying, “I love reading novels because it makes me feel like I’m experiencing someone else’s life.” I wondered if I lacked the experience of putting myself in someone else’s shoes, which brought me the sad ending in my relationship. I opened my laptop, googled “literature about love,” wrote down some titles, and went back to the bookstore. I picked up some novels, expecting that they would bring me some new discoveries. Spending plenty of time alone, I read a lot of novels about love. The genres were so broad that I traveled from Japanese novels in the 20th century to philosophical literature in Plato’s age, from happy stories to sad and dark ones. I also started taking notes on my thoughts about the stories to understand myself.
For example, the novel Purizumu (prism) by Naoki Hyakuta is about a man with a split personality disorder and a woman who falls in love with one of his personalities. As his multiple personalities get unified after going through mental rehabilitation, the character she has cared for gradually makes less appearances. Then the woman wonders whom she has fallen in love with; just the one aspect of him, or the man as a whole person. She feels sad that the part of him she loves has gradually disappeared and forgot about her. I cried as I sympathized with her sadness owing to the loss.
Reflecting to myself the struggle the female protagonist of Prizumu had, I thought that anybody may have multiple characters in him/her, regardless of being diagnosed as having a disorder. For instance, I may look like a talkative student at school, perhaps a funny person in front of my friends, a quiet person among my dance crew, and besides them, I want to look like a nice person in front of whom I love. Still, every part makes me who I am, which is the same thing that could be said about others. I learned from this book that multiple personalities complete who you are. Therefore, loving a person may be to understand all sides of the person, not to like one, and reject the others. Needless to say, this is just my interpretation, not an absolute answer for the meaning of love.
Reading novels brought me time to think about myself, which became a fruitful moment for me. As I tried to sympathize with the characters in the stories, I cried, laughed, got angry, confused, and was surprised. All the feelings came out as a positive sensation, which made me think about why I reacted that way. It was a great surprise that reading novels allowed me to go on a spiritual journey.
It was interesting to encounter various forms and stories of love, which made me see human relationships from different points of view. So many people, so many minds. Novels taught me that there is no concrete answer for love, which helped me embrace my mistakes. I used to blame myself for everything I did wrong in our relationship, but now I know that the problem was a small mutual misunderstanding. Everybody makes mistakes! I left my negativity and took a step forward to a more hopeful future.
Reading books to get information may be useful sometimes but reading fiction and focusing on your reflections to think deeply about yourself is also very important when you are confused about something unknown. It sounds time-consuming, and fiction will not always give you answers. Still, it will inspire you from many directions. More haste, less speed.