There is no destination.
You pick up a book and travel to distant lands and cultures. You find new homelands that you could never otherwise visit... linger in misty places that exist only in fantasy.
You take on the lives of your favorite characters, explore their worlds, drink their tea, feel their carpet under your feet. You know their struggles, their tragedies.
You forge meaning.
Who are you on this journey?
Pssst...I'm talking to you.
Yes, you: living your life in more than one language. Putting your best ideas into the world--in English. At work, at home, with friends, maybe in your creative life, your thoughts are in two languages. You've got one foot in each culture.
Do you know what you're really up to?
I was only being slightly cheeky when I said you have a superpower.
You in English=You, only more so.
You get to do something not everyone will have the chance to do: reinvent yourself in a new language.
You get to be a new person in English. And you get to decide who that is.
Do you ever suspect that Multilinguals have Multiple Personalities?
Think I'm going too far? That I'm singling you out unfairly?
I'm not saying it's just you.
Personally, I'm just not the same person in French as in English. In French, I'm much faster to speak my mind.
Ask me how I'm doing in French... and I just might tell you! Why?
And then again, why not?
Take on a new language...take on a new you.
Your next book...
Fellow book traveler, fellow bilingual book lover, your books, your languages? They're part of the same adventure.
Make no mistake about it--this adventure will make you someone new.
Every book leaves you a different person.
You come away with the tastes, the smells, the dust on your shoes.
Reading is experience! Don't believe me? (See this article in the New York Times.)
If I could give you one tool to take on your book travels, it would be a pen that would let you be the author of your own adventure.
Today, I have no list of 'books to read' for you.
Instead, I'm sending you on your own mission: to go out and search. To know what you're searching for.
Because like language, like experience,
Books are lives lived and lessons learned.
What will you read next?
Veteran book vagabond, serial adventurist (and fellow book traveler), may I suggest something as you choose your next book?
- Reflect on who you are and where you're going.
- Break a few rules.
- Write it all down!
Here's a little inspiration I made just for your journal. Download it, print it out and enjoy.
Brew yourself a nice cup of coffee, sink into your favorite chair and write this down. If you're like me, you'll get some great ideas as you write...
Then you'll get even more ideas while you're driving down a winding road or washing your coffee pot or pulling weeds.
Oh and just in case you're worried that I'm going to ask you to take this super seriously, or argue that this is a monumental occasion and to be met with gravity...
I don't see any reason why you can't dig deep in life while embracing the silly, the playful, the whimsical, the simply beautiful...the belly laugh.
Write your own adventure
The questions you'll answer about your reading and where you are going are just part of the story.
In fact, I think you should keep a journal of your adventures.
Writing about your book journey will also lead you to unexpected outcomes.
Writing down your thoughts may seem like
- a fun way to remember them--those books, those moments, how they changed you.
- a great way to find your thoughts and try on new ways of writing or speaking.
- a way to find your words and express your thoughts in English (and sound like yourself)
But I think you'll find--writing down your ideas is also so much more than that. (If you're interested see this article from Benjamin Hardy on Medium.)
Expect the unexpected
Much like reading, you might start journaling with some very practical reasons in mind--or just because you love it. But you may realize that much more is happening.
Of particular interest to you:
When you're inventing yourself in a new language--writing is a great way to take charge.
You have two souls. You have an alter-ego in English. It's just a fact.
You get to decide who you are in your new language. And writing about your own adventure will help you do that.
More to follow...
Don't forget your fellow travelers!
I know, I know, all of this is kind of a solitary journey. We don't take the same roads. We won't choose the same books on our way.
A journey within is a solitary adventure: you trekking down a path of your own.
But have you ever had the chance to meet up with your fellow book adventurers?
Other folks who are making the journey--through languages and books...
People whose inner life is just as rich as yours...
People who know what it's like to have two souls...
Sometimes it's fun to travel with someone else on some leg of a journey, to compare notes about places visited.
It's nice to know you're not alone.
Besides, these people have the best book recommendations!
Your English in all this?
If you're like me, you may be on this book adventure because you are constantly reinventing yourself--and your language.
You've probably got some goals for your English. I have some for my French...
But at some point, you are not trying to be more like a native speaker of English. You are trying to be yourself in English.
- You may find you have goals that many native speakers have as well.
- You may find that you have goals for yourself that many native speakers never even achieve.
Give yourself permission to stop comparing yourself to a native speaker.
You are in an entirely different category.
Ready to write your own adventure?
Where are you headed next on your book journey?
How will you pick your next few books?
Are you a different person in the different languages you speak?
Could your second language (and your second life) give you a chance to do something different?