My favorite T.V. show is Once Upon a Time. My favorite character is Rumpelstiltskin – for obvious reasons.
There was a time when I had an older brother. He was awesome. Don’t get me wrong; he was an asshole at the most opportune moments, like all big brothers, but he was awesome. He had this dream, when we were young: He imagined that one day he would be rich, rich beyond our wildest dreams, and own an enormous mansion – like a castle – that would fit all of our family. We would all be together like we never were. He and I would also make imaginary plans, late at night, to run away and find a new life.
My mother wasn’t the best at facing situations. She was more of a let’s-get-the-hell-out-of-here-and-let-everything-sort-itself-out kinda gal. When I was in high school she went back to school. She was living in a plain apartment beside the train tracks in the area of town where the road could have used a touch up and for heaven’s sake did no one know how to plant flowers? A shrub perhaps? My mom, who fled any time things got too good or too bad, was studying to be a surgical technician. Her grades were impeccable. I’ve seen her tests and she never scored anything below an A mark. 17 days before she would have graduated, (and who wouldn’t have hired her with her test scores?) she quit school. Just quit.
Let’s talk a little bit about television. Maybe a little bit about me. We can talk about you, if you’d like.
Rumpelstiltskin was the village coward, to be sure. Famous for breaking his own leg in a ploy to be dismissed from his duty to fight in the ogre wars, he was the mark of shame in his small, poor community. Rumpelstiltskin was left wifeless, friendless, and crippled, caring for his newborn son.
There came a day when the army and it’s commanders came riding through the villages, taking children in the name of the crown as soldiers for the war. Rumpelstiltkin’s young son was soon to be drafted. Fearing for the life of his son, – the last person remaining who loved him – Rumpelstiltskin heard rumors of a dagger kept by the military official who would come for his son. This dagger, according to the rumor of a man met in the forest, controlled the will of the darkest and most powerful being of human descent: The Dark One.
Let’s make a long story short. Rumpelstiltskin got the dagger and, rather than control the Dark One, became the Dark One. Bestowed with immortality and immeasurable power, Rumpelstiltskin destroyed his enemies, ended the ogre wars, protected his son, became formidable, became addicted to his power, became afraid of ever going back to a life without power, abandoned his son in favor of his power.
This all you’ll understand when you watch season 1 of Once Upon A Time. Trust me, no spoilers here. Now if I told you about season 2….
We all have our nasty habits that are hard to break. For some it’s a matter of drugs and alcohol. Some go to dangerous lengths in the name of self-preservation. I smoke too many cigarettes even though I say all the time that I’m going to quit. I’m also really good at running. I’m great at it. Good situations and bad situations alike, I’m great at high-tailing it out of them. I just don’t like to stay in one place for too long. It makes me feel trapped.
When I went back to school two years ago, I immediately began doing everything in my power to set the groundwork for an escape if I ever started getting cramped.
I got cramped.
I ended my first year of school with a 3.9 GPA (I’m pretty sure it was a 3.98, but bragging would be rude). In my second year of school, I failed 2 classes (maybe 3) and started spring semester classes a month late. Don’t worry. My GPA is still above a 3. The entire year was filled with complaining, resistance, irritability, an existential claustrophobia that demanded that all should turn to hell and crumble around me so that I could get out.
I’ve done a lot of sitting still over the summer, and a lot of thinking. All my life I’ve been taught to give up, to run, to abandon situations for good reason or no reason at all. I’ve been indoctrinated in the art of fleeing. I’ve studied through the process of enculturation, trained hard in my few beginning years of adulthood (what a wake up call those have been), and I have graduated summa cum laude with a degree (and damn, just give me an honorary phD) in cowardice.
Has anyone ever watched The Lion King 1 1/2? Remember scurry, sniff, flinch? Yeah. That’s my motto.
Why do we tell stories? Why do we write books and poetry and songs and movies and T.V. shows? Survey says: Because underneath the layers of fictional worlds and fantastic characters and deceptive language, there lies truth (or at least something to be learned). I think what makes writing successful, more than its ability to entertain, is its ability to teach. Every one of us is trying to navigate this world and this life while trying to make some sense of it all, all the eccentricities and challenges and things that just don’t make any sense on the surface. If writing is the way an author comes to an understanding of the world, then his/her understandings are woven into his/her work, and therein lie the marketability. I dare to say that for most of us, the goal of life isn’t to acquire a lot of money or a mansion or what have you, but to know what the fuck is going on. We, as a species in the dark, flock to anything and everything that helps us figure out life. There’s distraction too, oh yes. But that rebuttal is a topic for another time (someone remind me, please).
Either way, I think that’s why I like Once Upon A Time so much. And I think it’s the same reason I write. One day there might be a kid just like me, one storybook away from giving up (whatever that means to him/her) because of bullies, parents, poverty, shame, fear, or what-have-you. Because nothing makes sense until he turns a page and discovers hope.
What’s the point?
The point is I finally got myself into a situation where the only way out was through. There ain’t no way I’m paying those student loans if I leave this place behind. Talk to me when I’ve got a master’s degree.
I’ve done a lot of thinking over the summer, and for the first time in a while, I’ve gone on adventures. Part of my escape plan was telling myself I wouldn’t be able to make any meaningful friendships at school because of the age gap (which isn’t as bad as it could be). I’m a genius. If I didn’t make any connections, there would be nothing to tie me down.
That’s where student loans bit me in the ass.
Here I was, stuck in school, desperate to get out, and lacking any real form of human connection. Last year I made the best friends any one could have with three people I would die for. I’m kind of an abrasive person. Once I made those connections my personality began to soften with other friendly figures I became acquainted with. Good thing, too. I’m kind of popular around here (and humble), and I really don’t need a reputation for being an ass (It might be a little too late for that, but nothing is permanent.)
Sooo… what’s the point?
Not sure, but I hope this helps. I think the point might be that we don’t really know ourselves as well as we think we do, and don’t really find out until we find ourselves in a situation where our view of ourselves and the world doesn’t work. So I’d say a good takeaway is to always be willing to go on new adventures and escape your comfort zone, but never be afraid to settle down and tie a part of yourself to what’s around you.That way there will always be a connection, and you’ll always be able to find that part of yourself again if ever you return even just to pass through.
And of course, the real advice: Don’t ever give up. Be like a turtle racing a rabbit: Keep moving forward.