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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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I had heard of this word before. It was a word thrown at me since I was a child. The very first time being at a Parent Student Teacher Conference in second grade. My teacher described me as a wallflower. The word was always said subtly laced with judgement. I had always been told to not be one. I needed to ‘put myself out there’. That I should socialize more – which was probably true at the time. Being a wallflower was deemed as unnatural and wrong. As an impressionable child I tried my hardest to break out of the label that had been given to me. I refused to see the inherent beauty in the word. I wasn’t supposed to see it since no one else did. I became terrified to forever be classified as a wallflower. That was until Charlie came into my life.

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Charlie is a fictional character. However, whether he was fictional or factual, his influence on my life has been profound. Charlie is a character from the universe of Stephen Chbosky’s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I had seen the book in the library and almost felt drawn to it. I knew I needed to read it. I checked it out and finished the book in just a few days. Throughout this book Charlie sends a series of anonymous letters to an unknown friend describing his life as a High School wallflower. He writes about everything from his friends to his love life. He writes about learning to make leaps and turn around his high school experience. From the first few sentences of the book I was drawn in. I understood Charlie. He was me. I had felt the same fears he had felt when starting High School. I was afraid of judgement and feeling uncomfortable in social environments. The same way he was. Charlie and I shared quite a few traits in common. We were both attentive listeners, and pretty perceptive. However, there was one characteristic that differentiated me from Charlie.

In tenth grade my school required every student to give a speech in front of their English class about any topic they liked. I had chosen to talk about the murder of Kitty Genovese and the bystander effect. Giving the speech had really helped boost my confidence in class and at school. However, while writing the speech I realised a characteristic Charlie and I did not share. I was a bystander to my fears of being considered a wallflower, but he was not. I knew I was a wallflower, but still chose to allow the word to be thrown at me with such a negative connotation. Charlie was not a bystander, he knew he was a wallflower and embraced it. He saw the beauty in the word that I couldn’t.

Charlie’s innocence and fresh view allowed him to see everything with an admiration for its beauty. Something I had struggled to do myself. He saw being a wallflower as a blessing rather than a flaw. I was so afraid to see the real value of being a wallflower, thinking I would be the only one. But after Charlie, I knew I wasn’t. I allowed myself to acknowledge the “perks of being a wallflower.” I suddenly saw it the same way Charlie did. I was able to embrace being a wallflower, while still managing to ‘put myself out there’ the way I had always longed to. Charlie taught me not to conform to what people wanted me to be, rather to express who I was without the fear of being judged by my peers. He let me know that being a wallflower sometimes was okay, and that everyone who told me not to be one was wrong. I was finally able to see the inherent beauty in being a wallflower. And for that, Charlie, I am forever in your debt.  

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