When I was a kid, I read books all the time. I still read books all the time. With the exception of 2 weeks of retail hell, I have worked in places full of books and places where you could spend a slow day at the register reading. I used to read a book a day.
When people ask me why I do this whole exploring-abandoned-buildings thing, I think the seed was planted way before I thought I'd be an art student and listened to a lot of gritty punk rock and was totally into stark black and white photos of broken things.
When I was in first grade, I wanted to be an archaeologist, or someone who dug up dinosaur bones. I was also fascinated by natural disasters like volcanos, and how the city of Pompeii was buried for centuries under layers of ash. This was probably why I didn't have many friends, because I was pretty weird and not into Barbie dolls or New Kids on the Block.
I was either going to have 20 kids and move to Wyoming (don't know why looking back now) or spend my honeymoon with my future husband digging up dinosaur bones in Mongolia. But the Valley of the Kings had already been dug up completely and that involved being out in the hot sun and being detail-oriented.
I'm not detail oriented. But I loved reading about bygone eras and places where civilization once flourished and I still do. Around this time, I was homeschooled and the missionary kid curriculum my mom used for me was way more multicultural than my peers in grade school learning about Kwanzaa.
I was ten years old and reading anthologies of Korean and Chinese folklore, did a huge paper on Islam, learned about the Greeks and the Romans and the Renaissance but also Byzantium, the Inca, the Maya, Sundiata and Mansa Musa and Genghis Khan and more.
One of my favorite writers as a kid was Elizabeth Enright, who wrote about the kids I wanted to be. I lived vicariously through the Melendy kids exploring New York City and the grounds of their Four-Story Mistake and Portia and her cousin hanging out in abandoned Victorian houses on Gone-Away Lake. I thought that was so cool.
I realized quickly that no one else cared about stuff like this in our teens and so it got substituted by subculture, which helps a person find a lunch table to eat at but ultimately only takes you so far because you realize eventually that the worth of a person and their character is greater than what bands they like.
And now I'm rediscovering this part of me that loves old things and strange things that no one cares about, like warrior queens and world music and I love that my roommate rocks out to Ethiopian mezmur and Saturday night Arabic pop on the radio and that there are other people who like obscure byways and abandoned places.