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How books have saved my life- Enwongo C. Cleopas

So this is a picture of me from my Traditional marriage (and I just realized that I have never really gotten around to sharing pictures from my wedding album here which I should rectify soon). But this is not why I am sharing this picture.

Mrs. Enwongo C. Cleopas

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Behind me is my one part of my bookshelf in my room at home. All I wanted growing up was my own library and reading corner. I remember telling my parents to build my own separate shelf for me for my 18th birthday which they did; two big bookshelves, and I will always be grateful to them for this.

I talk about books a whole lot because books have saved my life and cushioned me from self-destruction many times. My mom was the first person who introduced me to reading and just having books. In fact because of me, she was encouraged to open a couple of bookshops in Uyo because she saw how grounded reading or just going through books kept me.

If you have ever given me a book as a gift, know that you saved my life. Thank you.

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One of the things I have passed on to my niece is my love of books/reading. She wants to be a thespian in two years, no longer a lawyer☺ and my heart expands every time I think about her. She found this passion from the pages of books. My library at home is always hers to go through. She found her love for plays through my books and her texts at school.

I am sharing this to say that some of us found acceptance and security in the pages of books. When people bullied me for diverse reasons, (from being too lanky or too boyish or just weird or with a ‘horrible’ voice and some things I won’t say) I always went back home and found consolation in books. Books built my self-esteem. When I was misunderstood or just lost in the whole life-thing, books provided a buffer for me. Till date, days when I am so down and just confused, I always find my way back to books.

Reading and just having access to books have saved my life. I have travelled round the world in the pages of books. I have walked the streets of England and kissed under the bright lights of New York. I have met younger strangers in Paris and found love in Botswana. I have slept in hospital corridors sometimes even getting lost in train stations. I have fought in wars and died too. I have experienced a thousand lives and I did that all from the comfort of my room or wherever I was at those moments. I have grown to be more tolerant of people because of books. I have grown to question life and found some answers too just by flipping/scrolling through pages. My passions found a home in books. My voice has been amplified from books.

Again, books have saved my life. The gift of reading and even writing has pulled me through many situations.

I will always share this one thing that has been constant in my life. It is a gift I was given from my parents and it is one I will give to my children, their children and others coming after me, including you my friends. And I want to make a request. If there is anything you want to give me for my birthday, pass it on to someone younger and make that a book. Thank you. They might not read it immediately, but the companionship that books provide will always be theirs.

Build shelves for your children, if you can afford to, no matter how small. Start with a book; they will fill it up by themselves someday. Donate books to schools when you can. Pass this beautiful gift to others. The seeds will become trees after we are gone.

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