“Why do you want to have a bookshop?”
This question has been a standard one for the majority of my life, and the answer has changed over the years.
When I was in middle school my answer revolved around being able to read anything I wanted at anytime. While I was in college, it was that I wanted to make sure there were affordable things to do that did not involve drinking. In my 20s it was the desire to be different and to start a revival of a simpler time of knowledge sharing. In my 30s it was a way to help parents find affordable information to educate the children with. Now in my 40s I have come to the realization that this is just in my blood and I shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone.
But the one thing that I have never gotten a clear answer to is “Why are you asking this of me?”
For some reason it seems that most of the people I have met are confused by my desire to live a life among the stacks. As a child I was told to dream big, and I did. Other kids would talk of owning horses or winning car races or becoming a teacher or a scientist and the adults all smiled and nodded. And that was that. Meanwhile my desire to own a bookshop with a living place on top of it was cause for concern. It alarmed them, and caused them to ask more questions.
“Are you sure?”
Of course I am.
“Why not dream a bit bigger?”
Well, I would always love to have a bigger shop or even a second one after a while.
“What about pets, or family or travel?”
Pets and Family can live with me without issue, why would owning a bookshop prevent this? As for travel —that would be a great way to get inventory!
“You’ll change your mind one day.”
“One day you’ll think of something less foolish to do for work.”
Okay? Like what? Mushroom farming or Beekeeping? Or raising Alpacas? I have guides books on how to do this and also books on business plans….
Not once in my young years did I have any encouragement with this plan. The idea of me running one, or even owning one, was considered to be far fetched and unrealistic. As the years passed the comments changed.
“What will you live off of?”
The money I make? I also grow my own food, and might start a Mushroom Farm for extra income.
“What about retirement?”
Nothing prevents me from saving, or investing or planning ahead. Besides I will love to do this until I die.
“ Why not do something meaningful?”
What can be more meaningful than owning and running a bookshop?
To me a Bookshop is the single most powerful place in the world. It offers shelter, information and comfort. It helps one define dreams and explore possibilities. It is the place that holds all whimsy, wisdom and wonders. A bookshop is where one can explore all the aspects of what was, what is, what will be and what would have been. A place where voices of the past can shimmer into the future causing new ideas to come to life. It is a place where the long dead, the recently dead and the non dead can come together.
Of course the smell of vanilla (from old paper) is a lovely addition.
But why is this such a thing for concern? Why do so many people need to hear an answer from me?
I believe it has something to do with the current state of Western Culture. The idea that someone could be happy without all of the trappings of modern society, that one does not need to be constantly connected, or distracted by the flash in the pan disposable life is strange to most people. To some it is a thing of horror, to others a thing of pity and, to a select few, an unspoken half formed desire. The question is asked for clarification, to allow them to justify their live and choices while judging others.
This creates a divide, a chasm, between the Bookwyrm and the others. One where the Bookwyrm is on the defensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a bridge made of paper and one can read the way over or not.
It is not the Bookwyrm’s job to convince the world of it’s validity. The actions of the Bookwyrm should do that.
Which is why, even in this digital age, Bookshops still exist.
My shop may be small, and the selection narrowly focused, but it is my shop and as the years pass onto decades my collection will be what tells people I was here. And I, the Bookwyrm, will live on in the heart of another.
That is why I own a Bookshop.