I’ve been trying to write this post for a few weeks now, but I could never find the right words. I want to do this justice, because I’m about to try to be really honest and open with you guys and that’s difficult for me. But I think I’m ready today. If I do end up bumbling a bit, I apologize, and hopefully you’ll still understand what I’m trying to convey here. I know this is a long post, but I hope you can stick with me to the end.
Two months ago, on July 7, 2013, my life changed forever. Everything I thought I knew was turned upside down and contorted into something I couldn’t recognize anymore. There was a huge shift in my family dynamic, and it’s left us with a lot of uncertainty about the future, in a lot of different ways. Relationships weren’t what I thought they were, not only with my family, but also with my friends, what few I had left. Luckily I’m still close to my mom, if not closer, so she’s given me an anchor as I try to right all the years of wrong.
I realized on that day, and every day since then, that I had been allowing a lot of people to manipulate and take advantage of me. I’ve struggled with low self esteem for years, and what I thought was someone boosting me up was actually tearing me down. My most repeated question lately: “You mean friends aren’t supposed to do that? What do you mean that’s not healthy? What if they’re family? Still not okay?” What I thought was me being helpful and supportive was actually me being codependent and sacrificing my own needs to try and fulfill others – even when they refused to be built up and instead continued to drain me and my futile efforts.
I’ll admit this right out: recognizing and coming to terms with all of this left me depressed and anxious. In the earlier days, there were times when I couldn’t find the energy to get out of bed. I had a hard time getting a deep breath, and a panic attack was just one disturbance away. I’ve started to pull out of it, and the hard days are less often now, but I still wake up some mornings and it’s like a dark fog pulls at me with every step. Some parts of me are angry at myself – thinking why can’t I get over this? It’s been two months, it’s time to move on. It’s taken the assurances of several people to tell me that this isn’t a situation that’s easy to get over, and the process to rebuilding my confidence and finding my footing in this new reality is going to take some time.
What does this have to do with Katniss Everdeen, you ask? If you’ve followed me since the Stone Ages of this blog, you might remember me whining about how weak and brittle Katniss was in Mockingjay. How I always wanted her to just get over it and pull herself up by her bootstraps. I always tell my literature students that books will affect everyone differently, because of their individual life experiences. I’ve always believed this, but not until July 7 did I truly understand it. I wish that I didn’t have to experience this particular circumstance to get a full grasp of that concept, but now I have a new respect for Katniss like never before.
Mockingjay is full of traumatic experiences, and if Katniss hadn’t been affected by them, then her realism would vanish. What I’ve realized is that even though Katniss struggles with PTSD (I know it’s not stated in the book but all the signs are there), she still stands as the Mockingjay and sees the revolution to its end. Maybe she’s not gung ho about it, and needs a lot of support and people forcing her to keep moving, but the fact is that she does it. She stays true to the very end. And you know what else? She realizes that she needs people to keep her strong – that it’s okay to say, “I’m struggling and can’t do this on my own.” I think I could learn a thing or two about that.
All of this is to say that I have completely changed my opinion on Katniss Everdeen. I’ve realized how incredibly real she is, and that Suzanne Collins has written such a brutally honest character that I rejected it at first because I wanted to believe in a strong heroine that was fazed by nothing. But now I realize that Katniss’s response to everything is probably one of the most powerful points of The Hunger Games – because even if she isn’t that archetype of the strong female character, she’s strong in her own way.
And you know what else Katniss has shown me? Just because the world seems like it’s falling down doesn’t mean that it’s truly the end: it’s just a chance for a new beginning. Since that day in July, and the subsequent breakdown of everything I thought was right, I’ve had to essentially rebuild myself. I’ve had a new chance at confidence, and a new chance to be who I want to be, rather than hide the parts of myself that I thought no one would ever like. Before, I never would have tried half the things I’m doing today.
I would never have clicked “send” on the email that inquires about participating in a blog tour. I never would have thought, “The worst they could say is no – so why not try?”
I wouldn’t be connecting with a bunch of incredible bloggers who have welcomed me into the blogosphere and shown me that it’s okay to fangirl and cry over books because BOOKS.
I wouldn’t be able to say, “I know I’m not writing right now, but I’m reading, and getting involved with other things bookish. And that’s okay – I have years ahead of me to write my books. And one day maybe I’ll even publish them.”
I would never have had the confidence to actually email an author and share with them how much their book meant to me and ask questions and actually be involved.
I would never have spent $18 on a hardback book, and then sat with a $5 Starbucks in Barnes and Noble for two hours guilt free – just because I could and dammit I am worth it and I work hard for my extra money.
But now I can do that. And so many doors are opening every day, and I just wonder: if this is where I am now, two months after the end of my world, where will I be in another two months? Two years?
I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay for everything to shatter, because sometimes you just need to pick up the best pieces of what was, and fit in the new pieces of what is to be.