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I was in love with books.

I was only fifteen but I was already reading every book I could get hold of. A library made me salivate. A bookstore always took my whole allowance. My mother helped by delivering me to my favorite bookstore every month, but my father criticised my reading habits — I was never available for impromptu chores — and he thought my chosen subjects were inferior. I was on fire, though, with Jung, philosophy, Dostoevsky and his ilk.

I was chasing the hidden meaning of life. I was sure those good folks around me, who were raising and educating me, knew next to nothing. I was sure the great thinkers and creators would help me find my path.

But I was a kid, with the capacity for comprehension of a kid. For one thing, my vocabulary was the size and depth you would expect of an adolescent that age. I started to make long lists of words I ran across that I didn’t know, scores on every page. I spent more time thumbing through the dictionary than actually reading, in the beginning.

It usually took looking up a word a dozen times before I could integrate it into my memory and use it. But gradually those tomes began to reveal their secrets to me, to give me a very different vision of life than I had absorbed from my surroundings.

I didn’t argue with anyone, but I began to refuse to go to church. My father sent the Yale educated preacher to set me straight, to no avail. I was veering off from the Texas culture around me, from my family even, from the life planned for me.

I wanted a beautiful life that had deep meaning for me, and I was becoming incapable of accepting anything less.

To an extent, I have managed to wrest a version of that life from the circumstances I was given, in spite of many stumbles and catastrophes. No matter the situation I find myself in, I am still working on that project. I don’t expect to ever abandon it.

It’s the guiding principle of my life. Anything I do, anything I create comes out of that.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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