A long time ago, when I was living far from home, I happened to pick up a book about the last Russian emperor. I'd always loved Russia, so this romantic story enchanted me from the first. I became fascinated with all things Romanov. I travelled about the city to read obscure history books in tiny, dusty libraries. I spent hours in the university basement, watching newsreels from pre-war Russia. It was not easy to feed my interest. Of course, these days thousands of photographs, memoirs, and film clips are available online. And thousands of young women are just as fascinated by the last Romanovs as I was.
That's just one example of how my environment lacked the things I loved. Another: poetry. I was nineteen, at university, before I discovered the existence of Robert Frost, Tennyson, Keats. School had not introduced them to me. Their books were not in the library. When I finally was able to read their poetry, I found a piece of my heart I did not know had been missing.
I believe I would have had more self-certainty as a young woman if the internet had existed back then. To have ready access to information and imagery I loved ... and to know from tumblr, pinterest, and web journals that there were other people who loved the same things as me ... would have been a real blessing. My society is very pragmatic, unromantic - coffee drinkers rather than tea lovers, if you know what I mean. Being one's true self in a vaccum is possible but often sad, lonely, confusing. Even small things like finding the kinds of clothes or tableware you like can be difficult. I recall one girl at university who had long curly hair and wore pretty dresses and cardigans and seemed to drift in a dreaming haze through her days. I looked for her everywhere just because she alone had the aesthetic I loved, and it was simply so good to see it.
When I consider how many young people think with a kind of despair, "there's no one out there like me," I am glad for the internet. I don't mean that we should seek other people to justify who we want to be, but merely that knowing kindred spirits exists is a real boost, and having access to what we love - even if only in imagery - can encourage and nourish the soul.