Life is riddled with mistakes, trials, joys, and fears. Yet we grow comfortable in suppressing the most humane parts of our lives—the moments when we fall and break down. I believe we would all be more comfortable if we didn’t feel the need to stifle them.

I am sharing with the world one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.

I have moved my entire life but was vehemently against moving to New Jersey in seventh grade. A few months passed, I was living on the East Coast, and I thought I succeeded in hating my new life, but the only success was hating myself. Hating and hurting myself internally and externally, crying myself to sleep, and desperately trying to give God reasons to not love me.

One day my sister came home from college and hugged me, taking me to get pancakes at 11 p.m. and begging me never to leave her. But then she went back to school and I found myself in the bathtub, holding my breath, feeling my chest tighten, breaking the water as I gasped for the air I never thought I wanted. And I cried on the bathroom floor knowing that I almost left her for good.

My mom turned to me one day and said, “You should read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I think you might find yourself in it.” Thank you Mom and Stephen Chbosky, I thought, but I don’t have time to read Charlie’s letters to anyone in particular about the scars left on him from childhood. It has no relation to me and I don’t want to hear it, you’re not my therapist—his name is Drew.

But I forced myself to, and all of the sudden I was crying. Not because it was tragic, or I was emotional, but because I am Charlie. Because for once in my career of bibliophilia I was depressed, anxious, and suicidal, and it was okay because someone else was too.

I was okay.

I had the chance to cry and laugh with Charlie as he navigated the waters of a new school, a difficult past, and the chemical imbalances within him that taunted and told him he was never enough. Stephen Chbosky gave me, and many others, not only a character to relate to, but also a story so riddled with trials and tribulation that it simply is the human experience. The world may be fictitious, but the experiences in it are real. They are palpable.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a call to arms. A narrative in which every person can find themselves if they are willing to risk their comfort. Chbosky reaches out with his pen and pleads with the world for them to hold on and to believe in a universal human experience. That means believing that mental battles are not a choice or reason for exclusivity and believing in what you feel. Listening to emotions and allowing them to develop, learn, and lose control if that is what they need. There is no shame to be found in pain; if anything, community is found in pain.

Some people carry the weight of their world on their shoulders—Charlie’s story gives a glimpse into that mental pain and exhaustion. Listen hard and absorb that experience, allowing it to go beneath the surface and into those dark places everyone is afraid of, “because,” as Chbosky says, “it’s okay to feel things.” There should be no fear in those darkest of places—no matter how harrowing—, for God will love you now and always. He turned those darkest days of my life into the framework of my person and I am not afraid to share with the world what makes me human. Life is fleeting and ever-changing, and if we want to be there for those we love, all we have to do is be willing to learn.

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