Just a quick blog post to share this message I received on Facebook during the week:
Just was thinking about why I liked your books so much and I realised it was the ‘real life’ issues which are rarely mentioned in other books. In book 6 with Katy in it I think, the part about world crisis and how you can often feel that you are overloaded and just don’t care anymore, I could really relate to that.
So for anyone who hasn’t read book 6 (SIX TO RIDE), here’s the conversation between 16 year old Katy and her neighbour Phil:
“Do you ever feel like it’s just too hard…to care? Like, when bad things happen around the world – suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and people getting beheaded and there being millions of people living in rat-infested refugee camps and it’s so awful and you feel so bad about it, but then you still have to get up every day and go to school and live your life, and your own problems seem so little and petty but then they’re also like, huge, because they’re the only problems that you’ve got. And then you get upset about stuff, and people are like um at least you’re not living in a rat-infested refugee camp and you know that’s true and you try to see that perspective but it’s so…exhausting,” I told him, my words tripping over each other as I tried to make him understand.
“Like it’s just too hard to care that much about everyone all at once, so you just ignore it as much as possible. Until something really bad happens, something terrible and cataclysmic, and everyone gets really worked up and it’s all over Facebook and there are hashtags and memes and everyone changes their DPs and you do it as well because if you don’t then it looks like you don’t care about other people’s plights, and then someone posts something about how the media is misinterpreting what’s going on or how you’ve only been shown the stuff they want you to see, and that hundreds and thousands more people are dying that you never even hear about. So then you feel shallow and you have to feel bad for those people too, for their problems and because they’re being ignored by the media, and it makes you mad that you’re being manipulated into caring more about some people than others, and you try and wrap your head around how it must feel for people to be in those kind of horrific situations, seeing their families get killed and not being able to go to school for fear of their lives, and you think how grateful you are for where you live and what you get to do in your life.
“But then your mum yells at you for not keeping your room clean, and teachers tell you off for not studying hard enough and it’s like sorry but I have the weight of the freaking world on my shoulders right now, except that I don’t. Not really. Because all those problems are other people’s problems, and my problems are whether I’ve done my homework and whether my room is clean and how my ponies are going and whether my dad just spent a stupid amount of money on a horse I can’t ride. I can’t do anything about whether someone decides to strap a bomb to themselves and kill innocent people. All I can do is write a hashtag and change my profile picture and feel guilty for having a better life than millions of people who are living in rat-infested refugee camps, and then I hate feeling so bad about something I can’t change and I can’t fix and it’s just so…it feels like such a burden, except it’s not, because look at everything we have, and how trivial our problems are…”
My words petered out at last, my tongue finally tying itself in so many knots that I had to stop. I wondered what Phil was thinking. Probably that I was crazy. I shouldn’t have said anything, should’ve quit while I was ahead, but it was too late now. My guts were officially spilled, and Phil still hadn’t spoken, so I sat up and looked at him, trying to gauge his reaction.
He didn’t meet my eyes. Instead, he was focused straight ahead, his expression tight and his jaw clenched. I thought he was mad, at first, until I realised that his eyes were shinier than usual. Was he…but boys don’t cry. It was the first thing that came into my head, and I shoved it away immediately. Of course they cry. Everyone cries. It’s perfectly normal, and healthy, and I was not going to judge him for it. But it made me uncomfortable. Not because he was a boy, but because crying people always do. I never know what to say to them, and my hugs always seem insincere, no matter how hard I try to make them feel comforting. I wanted to be AJ just then, because she would’ve known what to say and how to reassure him, or how to lighten the mood and stop him from crying, because I knew he didn’t want to be doing that in front of me. He was looking away now, trying very hard not to blink.
He nodded, then raised a surreptitious hand to rub at his damp eyes. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be.” I leaned into his shoulder again, because it was all I could think of to do, and felt him lean back into me, reciprocating my touch. “Never thought anyone would be crying over my first world problems,” I teased, trying for some levity.
“Don’t say that.” Phil’s voice had changed, gone deeper, and I sat up again.
“What? Why not?”
He glared at me, that deep line reappearing between his eyebrows. “That first world problems crap. Because that’s part of the problem. It’s exactly what you’ve just been talking about. Everyone’s problems are their problems, and they still hurt, no matter how big or small they are. They still hurt. So saying your problems are not real problems because there are bigger problems in the world is so unhelpful. Everyone has things in life that suck, it’s just the scale of it that changes. Sometimes people can’t get out of bed in the morning because their arms and legs have been blown off. And sometimes people can’t get up because they just…can’t.”