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Why I Relate to 'Turtles All the Way Down'


I love to read. I’ve always had a love affair with words and reading a good book was always something I loved to do even if it was forbidden, especially during class, which I did anyways. But for some reason during the last couple years, especially during my years of a bad mental illness spiral, I couldn’t find the drive to read anymore. It felt as if my love for reading had disappeared, which saddened the book worm in me. I also attribute that disappearance to being forced to read so many boring and informationally dense textbooks in school that made me turn away from reading.

Since then I have read only three books. One, the first Harry Potter book that I liked but never continued in the series after I lost interest in reading once again because of my own anxiety pushing me down. The second book was “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. I had borrowed the book from my sister who had taken a class on her and Anne Sexton in college and who both died by suicide. I liked the book because I felt a kindred spirit in the character who liked her madness to being stuck in her own bell jar, and that her madness would only continue until she was no longer in the bell jar of her illness. The third book is “Turtles all the Way Down” by John Green. It was a new book that people had been waiting for. My mom had called me the day before and said they had gotten the book for our library and wanted to know if I would like to read it. She said to look up the plot to see if I was interested, but I was unsure so I said no. Firstly, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to read the book, and secondly, because looking up the plot would be spoiling the book entirely. If you are a reader of any kind, shape, or intensity you never look up the plot of a book, it ruins the mystery.

The next day I was taking her art supplies she had forgotten at home by request of my dad. On a whim of remembering her telling me about the book the day before, I asked her if I could have the book, which resulted in her giving me the book. I opened the book to read it and found another kindred spirit in the main character of Aza. I won’t spoil the book, but if you have anxiety or OCD, you may relate to her as well. This resulted in a couple hours of reading and by the time I had to go to my psychiatrist’s appointment I was already halfway through the book.

I had found myself back in love with characters, especially the character of Davis, who seemed to like Aza despite her intrusive thoughts and anxiety about herself and the micro bacteria in her body. The one thing that struck me, like it did Aza, was when her friend Daisy mentioned a story about a lecturer giving a lecture on the creation of the earth. A woman in the audience stood up and said that it was just a turtle standing on top of another turtle. This resulted in the lecturer frustratedly trying to find out what was at the bottom of the turtles. The woman laughed and said, “It’s turtles all the way down.”

Let that sink in for a minute. As a person with anxiety or OCD, you might always be looking for the answers. There has to be an answer to every question and a solution to every problem. But no one ever anticipates an answer that stumps them such as this. Because it is an answer that really has no answer. It’s about something as endless as the universe itself. It’s knowing there is no bottom; that there are going to be turtles, but no end to how many there could possibly be. That sometimes there doesn’t need to be an answer. That some questions are better off not knowing the answer to. It’s being OK with not having an answer to something. It’s giving in to the uncertainty and being OK with it when it comes.

How profound, huh? In my own struggles I have found that I never let uncertainty have it’s place in my life. I always have to have control. I couldn’t let go of things and instead, just let the universe have it’s say. Which is a sad way to live, let me tell you. I, even in the worst throes of anxiety, cannot let it rule me. I always have to have a firm grip on something. But even that is impossible. Letting go and surrendering are always something that I have had trouble with even to this day. It’s so hard to let yourself blindly leap and know that you’ll be OK. I sometimes give that advice to other people, but I never take it myself. In light of every situation that will come, I have to take that advice. I have to give my faith a try and leap into new possibilities with an open heart and mind knowing that trying my best will end up with me somewhere great or even just good.

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Lead image via John Green Facebook


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