Ikea was my heaven. Every corner I turned, there were different displays with endless arrays of brochures. As I walked through the makeshift bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms, I found it exhilarating to uncover as many different leaflets as I could and add them to the growing stack in my small arms. They all simply featured pictures of furniture but had various Scandinavian names that grabbed my attention. I liked that they were all categorized and named, given specific instructions, and could be filed away with an organized understanding of where each piece of furniture belonged.
I have always had certain quirks that set me apart from everyone else. However much I loved stashing away hundreds of Ikea brochures in manila folders, I soon found that it wasn’t a topic of conversation that other seven-year-olds found amusing. I liked the uniformity of it all, the way I could make each piece of paper like a marching soldier finding its position and purpose within my fortress of folders. Those Ikea brochures received more attention than any of my other toys did, simply because I liked being able to make a story out of something so concrete.
There came a time when I realized that furniture catalogs no longer captivated me, so I switched my attention to something else. I returned home after a tiring day of third grade and told my mom that we had to go to Office Max. After driving through a downpour to the nearest office supply store, I stood in the entrance and scanned the vast mountains and valleys of notebooks and writing utensils that beckoned me. I left the store with four shiny three-ring binders and hundreds of plastic sleeves that I bought with my own money.
That day, and for many days after, I sat on the floor for hours cutting out pictures and words from magazines. I chose images of beautiful models in perfume advertisements and snippets from articles about the latest celebrity gossip from one magazine. Then, captivating landscapes and scientific discoveries from another. I methodically glued these images and words on pieces of paper and placed them in plastic sleeves in my binders. There was Teen Vogue mixed with Good Housekeeping on one page and then People Magazine with National Geographic on another. My binders told stories of beautiful women on scientific expeditions surrounded by real mountains and valleys, not ones of office supplies. They could do anything. They could even go hiking in skinny jeans and five-inch high heels when the mood struck.
Again, with time, I lost interest and decided to move on from my binders of mistaken dreams. My next project still included magazines, but, to my mother’s dismay, I used a different canvas: my wall. One night in fifth grade, I felt compelled to cover an entire wall in my room with clippings from magazines. Every night for months I went to sleep with hundreds of faces watching me and not one square inch of my purple walls peeking out from behind the white smiles and unblinking eyes. However unsettling that may sound, It was almost comforting to be surrounded by people who I imagined knew exactly who they were. It became a common practice for my friends and me to write our names in pen on the people we wished we were or the places we wanted to go.
I had been so transfixed on the pictures in my mosaicked life that I had forgotten about what they overshadowed. Words had always been important to me. I started reading when I was three years old and writing not long afterwards. My parents and teachers loved the dorky poems I wrote in my free time, but my peers dismissed them as quickly as they had my brochure collection. Still, words had always been there. With my Ikea obsession, the names of the furniture were what set them apart in the piles of monotonous diagrams. In my binders, it was the words I chose that truly described the aspirations I had for myself. I never really dreamed of hiking up a mountain in stilettos. I dreamed of reading the latest Harry Potter book in a t-shirt and shorts. Although I didn’t see the symbolism of it at the time, I ripped every single one of those pictures down from my wall and started over once again.
I have explored pretty much every avenue in search of an identity. I’ve gone from being a classical to contemporary pianist, athlete to choir geek, and finally, brochure collector to proud writer. I’ve moved on from Ikea’s bland black and white, to the exaggerated colors of magazines, to creating my own color through my writing. I’ll admit I still find myself eyeing brochures sometimes. It is no longer their uniformity that I admire; rather, it is the memory of how I’ve become the individual I am today. I’ve moved on to a new chapter in my life — pun most definitely intended — where Ikea is no longer my heaven. Writing is my heaven.