Finding Hope with Jean Webster
About ten years ago, I decided to start a new life on my own. I felt completely alone and had difficulty even doing everyday tasks that were too easy for others. Others seemed to me very skillful in this “work of life.” I felt like a child just learning to walk.
I was prickly like a cactus and patiently waiting to bloom like a cactus. I thought it would happen by itself, that all I had to do was wait. Nothing happened. I wanted to hold on to life, but I did not believe that I had everything necessary for this. I wanted to change, but without getting up… I didn’t even want to think that I should take responsibility for the change.
I didn’t really realize how strong I was. I needed someone to come out and say I was fine, so I kept making up weird illnesses and knocking on doctors’ doors. I was happy when they told me that I had nothing. I felt relieved, as if I had not made up my illness. However, this feeling did not last long. Soon I started to feel bad again. Soon I began to despair again…
Those were the days when I loved cats more than people. Uncertain and dark days when I couldn’t read the news, started to lose faith in my country and the world, and didn’t see a future for myself. I ignored that the root cause of everything was my own disbelief in myself.
One day I knocked on the professor’s door. I told him that I thought I was ill. After examining me, he paternally patted me on the shoulder and suggested that I find a therapist and not come to this hospital again. I was very confused, but I also needed the guidance of an authority figure. The next week I took his advice and started therapy.
So the hospitals were replaced by my therapist’s office. In this small study, decorated with a Monet painting and lotus candles, I soon learned to stand on my own two feet, to believe in myself, and to leave behind many things that gnawed at me. But my therapist wasn’t the only one who told me I was fine. There was another person who said this. That person was the writer Jean Webster, Mark Twain’s second-generation niece.
One day, while browsing bookstores after my therapy was over, I saw Webster’s book, My Favorite Enemy, on one of the “new editions” shelves. I liked the title of the book, I found this little clash meaningful, as someone who had considered himself an enemy for years and finally learned to love himself.
I bought the book right away, without even reading the back cover, went home and started reading over a cup of tea with lemon. From the very first pages, a smile spread across my face, I felt at home. Inside this warm book, written by Webster in 1915, I was at peace and secure with myself.
Your main character didn’t care about the world. It was a young woman with a dizzy head, like an old-fashioned romantic comedy character. She ended up running an orphanage when her only concern was wearing nice clothes. As the book progressed, he dedicated himself to the children in the orphanage and developed into a respectable and helpful person. It was a model character for a woman like me living in her own melancholic bubble.
When I finished the book, I had mixed feelings. The happiness of reading one of the most beautiful novels in the world, the surprise of being filled with human love again after a few dark months of loving cats more than people, and the shame of how isolated I was from society… Naturally, I wanted that to do something. Be useful. I don’t know why, but this little book, written almost a hundred years ago, made me believe in my country and the world again.
Since then, every year I started doing small favors in my own way. And for animals, and for people … I felt good more than anyone else. After all, there’s nothing better than being kind to someone else, right? But later I realized that this is not enough.
I also had other responsibilities. The most important of these was to give up my terrible passion for individuality, which was one of the things that consumed me in the first place, both in my thoughts and in my letters and in my heart, and begin to turn my face towards society. I may never be as comfortable in society as I am in my own solitude, but I can try. Instead of looking at my own life, I could expand my horizons and finally realize how big the world is and how small I am.
Ten years have passed and I have changed a lot. There are two reasons why I am writing these lines today. First, of course, I want everyone to read Jean Webster’s wonderful book, My Dear Enemy. Secondly, in these difficult days when it is very easy to give up, I will tell you: “Please keep trying! Don’t lose faith! Don’t lose hope!” I mean.
Besides, I think I still like cats a little more than people!
You may be interested in: The Girl Who Loves Books: At Maçka Park with Virginia Woolf
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