When I think of books throughout my life, a clear picture comes to mind. A young girl with wild, curly hair waves a stick in the air. Others observe a child at play, albeit not the kind of game they intended. But for her, this is important. After all, who will be the hero if she is not? She slays dragons while wondering where her beautiful, faithful steed went (this horse was specifically Friesian and fully armored for battle, naturally). The boys were bested by quick swings and thrusts of increasingly large sticks as her body grew, and she was a prize fighter to have in their “army.”
My head spilled over with stories and ideas like the waters that gush from fire hydrants. Books were the vehicle through which I discovered the world and its holdings. And yet, this was not to be the greatest treasure given. Ultimately, books bestowed upon me the blessing of vox, of my voice.
Of the many books I received and devoured like cookies on the kitchen counter, Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton held and still grips my heart. This was my first Jane. Reading about how she wanted to be a knight instead of a royal lady, how she befriended the outcasts and saw into who they truly were, is precisely what I wanted. I imagined this to be integral parts of what courage meant. So, of course, I had to become a knight of King Arthur’s renowned Round Table. Only, you can imagine my despair when I found that not only was King Arthur barely real, but that knighthood was not an option for a small, Southern, American girl. Many long speeches riddled with dissatisfaction to apathetic listeners provided some vague sense of comfort.
Yet, as the years rolled on and my heart grew, dragons became real; just not the kind I had envisioned. They came as things more terrible than the dreams we create at night for one reason alone: they were reality. Pressures of advancing through years and the slow shedding of protective barriers illuminated the cold awaiting. But, if Jane could be brave, I would be.
I began to write. I wrote to see the thoughts in my head. I wrote to paint pictures with words. I wrote to experiment. I wrote to understand these new things; and above all, to understand myself. My words evolved and branched out to the skirts of my knowledge and imagination, though not without over-extending and brilliant histrionics. Poetry, diaries (that I never cared for), short stories, novels, songs, plays: these were the speech I knew best.
My second Jane was an entirely different hero. She came as a governess who believed in and relied upon herself despite cruelty from a society who had no place for a brilliant, spirited woman. To this day, I have read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre from cover to back at least three times. She bridged my word-talents to the desires of my heart by fighting the evils that reside in the hearts of everyone; including herself. As I followed her adventures, I knew this was the kind of woman I wanted to be: independent, truthful, and kind.
But how to fight dragons when I love books? The years took my writing from one place to another, eventually spanning across continents and seas. I found that my words jumped from fiction to reality, that what I said could defend those in need and fend off those with mal intent. And more than my words, my confidence and courage grew for the sake of others, that someone might stand when all others were too afraid. My spoken and written words became stronger, more vibrant and full of life, stringed with the legacy of my Janes. And while many persons encouraged and influenced me, these Janes lived in my imagination wherever I went. Their lessons clung as garments near my heart. The hero I always wanted to be did not happen through magic. She came through understanding that bravery was not for her alone. The gifted vox was the sword for battle. And in my own life, I cultivated the courage to fight the real dragons, for myself and for others.
Author: S.A. Borders-Shoemaker
Author Bio: S.A. Borders-Shoemaker is a PhD Candidate at George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution. Through her studies, life experiences living abroad and volunteer/activist work, Borders-Shoemaker seeks to explore the complexity and paradoxes of the world. She writes poetry regularly and has several full-length books in the works.
Link to social media or website: @sabordersshoemaker