Escapes to Myself
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


by Vivek Kunnath

Fresh air! Loud cars! Big people! That man on the corner who sells ice cream! These thoughts rushed through my infantile mind as I wove through the throngs of people that crowded the sidewalks of Singapore. I was three years old and free. I had escaped from the place where I had been interred--preschool. When nobody was looking, I slipped out of the classroom, crept down the hallway, pushed open the front door (which took a minute since I was so small) and just left.

Was this dangerous? Yes. Was it successful? Yes. But why had I escaped and walked two blocks home? Simple, to find my book on dinosaurs; a captivating volume with illustrations and facts on creatures like Velociraptors and Brontosauruses. I had just discovered the joy of reading and carried that book almost everywhere. Every time I opened the book, I felt that I was uncovering something amazing. Years later, I realized that what I felt was the thrill of learning.

It's been a long time since that escape and my love of knowledge has only grown. I remember days in libraries--sequestered from the world, poring over volumes on all kinds of subject matter. I read fiction by such authors as Isaac Asimov and biographies of people like Nikola Tesla and Mahatma Gandhi. I buried myself in scientific texts such as Cosmos and The Demon-Haunted World. By the time I was twelve, I knew more about mythology and atoms than my hometown. This isn't surprising since I never lived in a place long enough to call it home. I was born in India and moved to Singapore when I was two. By four, I was in Pittsburgh and a few months later, Michigan. I turned eleven in Delaware and thirteen in New Jersey. At fourteen, I ended up in McLean, Virginia.

I coped with unfamiliar environments and a lack of friends by immersing myself in reading, a familiar anchor that comforted me through my loneliness. But at the same time, I hid from the world in a cocoon of books. I relied on myself rather than other people. While I became more independent, I had trouble interacting with other kids. As I grew, my independence and depth of knowledge increased but so did my isolation. Authors like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman gave me foreboding impressions of the world and I began to avoid crowds and conversations, afraid of being hurt, but knowing that I would have to approach them eventually.

I emerged from my shell when I discovered ways to use my knowledge to connect with others. In a brave attempt to make friends as a Freshman in high school, I joined a quick succession of after-school activities including a lonely season with the football team which ended with the coach telling me that if I didn't "get angry" I would remain "just a bookworm in a linebacker's body." Through great perseverance, and some luck, I found a niche in the Diplomacy Club, a small group dedicated to discussing subjects ranging from fantasy authors to international relations. The name really had long since ceased to have meaning. Whatever reservations I may have had were overshadowed by my astonishment at the intelligence and versatility of the members themselves.

On the very first day, I walked into a heated debate on the plausibility of Faster-Than-Light travel. Somehow, I managed to jump right into the discussion and make several points relating to Einstein-Rosen Bridges and how they could be used to facilitate travel between worlds. It was the first time in a while that I had managed to actively participate in a conversation. I cracked jokes, made observations, and argued points better than I ever had before. These classmates were the first friends I made in a long time and I would make many more after that meeting.

Where once my knowledge fostered isolation, it now allows me to connect with people and actually interact. I actively participate in all my classes and hang-out with friends on a regular basis. I'm no longer an introvert but I'm still independent. It's a long way from, yet incredibly close to, the child who ran away from school for a book.

Vivek Kunnath, a 2013 graduate of McLean High School in McLean, Va., will be a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Fall.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community