There are three things in my life I will probably never do. Most likely, I’ll never be able to slide contacts onto my eyeballs, sit down to take a standardized test without having a churning stomach, or have an out-of-body experience. Well, the third point isn’t entirely true because I have met myself before. No, I did not meet this “ghost” of myself in a dark attic or a desolate highway. I am talking about a literary acquaintance. Through my readings, I was introduced to a character so similar in disposition to me that I had a pseudo out-of-body experience, if ever there was one. This character understands my devotion to raising awareness through writing and my infatuation with entomology. With complete honesty, I can say I had an out-of-body experience with Leah Price.
What happened when Leah abducted my consciousness? She exposed me to new ideas, highlighted our similarities, and fueled me with a passion to fight for what I believe in. Barbara Kingsolver’s Leah Price from the novel The Poisonwood Bible is a character of determination, intelligence and compassion. She is one of the five narrating voices and the most observant and understanding of the four Price sisters. Leah spends her life working for social justice after witnessing racism and poverty in the Congo. I, too, am very aware of social and environmental issues plaguing our planet.
We are both the type of person who values truth and knowledge. She, however, loses her faith in the process of finding her role in the world and her own meaning of life while I plan to use my faith to help guide me. While she suffers a “crisis of faith” after learning the ugly truths of the world, I have experienced a confirmation of my faith from combating my ignorance.
As a member of the Red Cross Teen Peer Counsel, I attend speeches concerning the AIDS epidemic in Cote d’Ivoire, the depletion of rainforests, and the continued exhaustive use of our non-renewable natural resources. These topics, among others, are of chief importance to me and I write about them for my school newspaper.
If Leah Price were a student at my school, I could see her doing the exact same thing. The reverse is also true; if I were in Leah’s shoes (probably very worn ones), I could see myself joining the fight against religious oppression and racial inequality. Therefore, my future plans of saving the environment through writing and exposing my concerns are similar to how Leah spread awareness and devoted her life to helping the Congolese.
Throughout elementary school, my favorite priest told me that I had my own guardian angel with me at all times. Similar to how I shimmied to one side of my chair to leave space for my winged friend, I constantly leave room in my soul for Leah. Now, I know I don’t exactly need to save a portion of my seat in AP Latin for her, but I am aware of her presence. She is so tangible to me because I recognize myself in her.
So, you might say that I have had an out-of-body experience. Perhaps a piece of me, some slice of ignorance or immaturity, was replaced by an admirable trait of hers. Perhaps I had a cleansing experience when I literally threw something out of my body to make room for something good. Sure, I realize this is a stretch, but that is where my unbridled imagination and creativity kicks in. Perhaps, one day, I will have the guts to slip contacts onto my eyes without trepidation. I know I will learn how to better unleash this creativity and thwart any existing fears at college. After all, anything is possible.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the March 2006 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.