Patient Understanding: Losing a Legend

On June 25th, 2009, the world was in mourning. Michael Jackson had died. As someone who was never a big MJ fan, I didn’t understand why everyone was so upset. At the time, I was worried about enough things, for on that very same day, my mother had just gotten out of the hospital. Who had time to worry about a celebrity who had passed when my mother was ill?

The very next morning, my mother joined him. While the world was still grieving over Michael, I began grieving over my mom, and my sentiments of apathy and frustration about everyone’s focus on this celebrity death was only made worse.

As I listened to the world despair that someone had died that they had never met, I was angry. At the time, I was 18 years old, two months from starting college, and now – an orphan. I didn’t understand what everyone else could possibly be grappling with because I was young, scared, and going through more pain at my mother’s unexpected passing than I ever had ever known before. In those moments, I did not think it conceivable that the loss of a stranger could be anywhere near as agonizing as what I was going through. I was heartbroken, and those scars may never fully heal. But because of what I experienced yesterday, I know now that thinking their hurt was any less real than mine, was wrong.

Yesterday morning (January 14th) I awoke to a message from a friend saying . . .

I know how upset you’re going to be today. Just know I’m just as upset and I love ya.

Both shock and fear gripped me. What had happened? What was wrong? Had someone died? I immediately went to twitter, and the name I saw at the top of the trends for a moment made me exclaim, “No, no, no . . .”

Sure enough, it was true. The world had lost Alan Rickman.

A loss of someone I’d never met, which had six years ago been incomprehensible to me, somehow now made sense. With perfect clarity, I began to feel a pain, sadness and confusion that I ‘d never known before. I never met Alan Rickman, and I knew I now never would, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like a friend had just died.

As someone who tells stories, I know the impact that characters, authors, and artists can have on a person – they become like friends to us, family even. I remember being 11 years old and seeing the first glimpses of Alan as Professor Snape, and I would spend the next 10 years of my life watching him brilliantly play one of the most complicated hero-villains I’ve ever seen. I watched him in behind the scenes features, heard stories of his kindness to the kids on set, and from those who knew him best. He was one of my faves.

Then I laughed hysterically because of his role in Dogma, looked for the best in him when he made mistakes in Love Actually, and then he stole my heart in Sense and Sensibility as Colonel Brandon – probably the only other role of his that majorly impacted my life. As with many other creators, he had come to be someone I looked up to, admired, and was inspired by. I’d never met the man, but he affected me.

And thus his loss has been excruciating. No doubt the pain I feel is far, far less than that of those who loved him and were a part of his daily life. Fellow Potter alumni Sean Biggerstaff and Evana Lynch posted beautiful accounts of what an incredibly caring man he was. He was someone who genuinely and freely expressed kindness towards others, even if he barely knew them. He may have spent the years in which I knew him playing a Slytherin, but these accounts have convinced me: I believe Alan may have been a Hufflepuff, and it has made me connect with him all the more now that he’s gone.

His characters will live on forever. That is the beautiful thing. His vulnerability exhibited with the utterance of one word – “Always” – will continue to inspire strength for generations to come. But for me, Alan’s death, tragic though it may be, has helped me understand something that I didn’t all those years ago.

It is okay to mourn someone you’ve never met. Was Alan just one person who passed in a world where people are dying every minute of every day? Yes. Does that make the impact of his loss any less for those who looked up to him, were inspired by him, and connected to him? No. I couldn’t possibly understand this as an 18 year old in the wake of the greatest loss I’ve ever known, but as a 25 year old who has just experienced the loss of an artist who helped shape me, I can.

As you go through the internet in the next few days, there will begin to be people who say things like – ‘Get over it, already!’ or ‘You never even met him, so you have no right to be sad!’ – I encourage you to exhibit what I’m sure someone like Alan would have. Be patient and understanding, for they may not understand. This kind of loss is unique, and for those who may never have lost an icon they looked up to, it’s not a feeling they can relate to.

Forgiveness of those who don’t sympathize with you is key – but I write this so that in reading it, you can also know you’re not alone in this. There is a whole community of us who feel it too, and who want to pay tribute. This is a sadness felt ’round the world, and as Albus Dumbledore once reminded us at a time of great loss:

Now the pain we all feel at this dreadful loss reminds me, and, reminds us, that though we may come from different countries and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one. – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire film)

May we remember Alan and his legacy, always. /*

(Featured Image Photo taken by Claire Furner at Kings Cross Station in London, where a memorial for Alan Rickman began to form at Platform 9 3/4.)

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So It Begins

Today marks the start of a new part of my journey, one I’ve never embarked upon before, but which is sure to be about as exciting as it is nauseating. Today, I set down to start editing my novel.

As I sit with notecards scattered about me, about to delve right back into the story I’ll be spending the next goodness knows how many months combing through, I can’t help but feel the same sense of thrill I felt for the first time last year. It’s not a feeling many might associate with an activity such as sitting down in front of a computer, going through a word document, but the feeling still stands:

This is the same kind of feeling I got the first time I was on a plane that was about to take off. Weird maybe, but follow me on this one . . .

Last year, when I first hopped on a plane, ready to go to England, it was something I’d never experienced before, but which I had heard about from others numerous times. Some had bad experiences, others had great ones. Some felt the need to vomit, while others might have felt exhilaration. That very much captures what I’m getting at.

I’ve had so many supportive and amazing people reach out to me these last few days, saying things like Congratulations on your novel! You finished it! Awesome! Can I read it? And while all of this is LOVELY to hear, the idea that finishing draft one means this novel is done, could not be farther from the truth.

Finishing draft one was merely the end of the beginning.

Now the real task begins.

Am I scared of what’s to come? Sure. A little. That’s how I know it’s going to be exciting. In a conversation with a close friend I had earlier today, I described that I feel much like Bilbo in that scene in the first Hobbit movie, when he’s running down a road through Hobbiton, waving that piece of paper and screaming to someone, “I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!!”

Ya know? This one. (Gosh I love this gif…)

That’s really what I’m doing. Telling the adventure that is my novel is an entirely separate adventure that I must embark on. The road will be long and hard (and hopefully I run into at LEAST one dragon…) but it’s a road that I know will change me and make me a better person at the end. And hopefully, dear reader, the end of this journey will allow me to finally put this book I’m writing into your hands.

*downs last of my coffee* Let’s do this.

All Good Things

As 2016 gets under way, I find myself caught up in something that many of us spend the first days of a New Year doing: thinking about what I can do differently. What resolutions should I make? What am I actually able to stick to as a realistic goal? What do I need more of in my life?

One of the biggest things, is positivity, which may sound like a contradiction to most people who know me. My friend even sent me this tweet as I was working on writing this post:

I pride myself on being a person who just spews encouragement and excitement in every direction, because honestly, that’s who deep down I feel I am, and it’s entirely who I want to be. But what less people know about me is that in order to do that, I’m usually having to suppress my depression and anxiety to make it happen. I’ve gotten considerably better at this than I was before, but it’s still a daily struggle, and one that I need to be proactive about keeping under control.

So what’s my solution? What’s my plan for being the happiest me I can be in 2016?

Meet my Memory Box.

L3dcTGza

What’s a Memory Box? Well, it’s what I am calling my version of something that I was actually inspired to do by one of my friends, only hers is called a Good Things Jar. The container is whatever you want it to be, but the idea of it is simple.

Every day, you write down one good (happy, positive, exciting, amazing, or any-other-word-that-describes-wonderment) thing on a piece of paper, and put it in the box. Then at the end your 366 (since it’s a Leap Year!) you’ve got an entire container that’s full up with the beautiful moments of your year. You can even decorate it if you like, so over the year I plan to add to what is currently just a plain red box, so that by year’s end, the box is as much a representation of the year as the things that are inside of it! Quotes, stickers – whatever I find that sums up the epicness of 2016.

My friend's Good Things Jar! GOOGLY EYES! :D
My friend’s Good Things Jar! GOOGLY EYES! 😀

For me, reminders of the good things in life can be what keeps me going, especially on days when I am feeling at my worst. It’s one of the reasons I like to journal and blog as much as I do. Memories of good things can reignite the sparks in one’s heart that you need to keep going. They can inspire you to keep fighting so you can experience more like them. Memories are part of what makes us most human.

I already feel in my bones that 2016 is going to be a game changer, and so I can’t wait to see where this lil venture takes me. And even better, this box fits perfectly as a vessel for all the good things, as it was the box that my Christmas gift from my sister came in. And what was the gift it carried? The “Best Day Ever” mug shown next to it in the photo above. ^_^

So here’s to the year and to all the happiness that it will bring, and most of all, here’s to looking back at the end of this year, with what will hopefully be both a little red box – and a heart – full up with love.

Next Chapter

Last night (December 31st, 2015) at 10:23pm, I did it.

I finished the first draft of my novel that I’ve been developing for the last 11 years. It’s done. I did it. See?

But is it actually done, done? Like ready to go off to the presses?

Sadly not. Before any of that kind of exciting stuff can happen, there’s the perilous journey of editing this baby, which is going to be about as emotional an experience as it was writing it, though perhaps for different reasons.

Over the next few months, some of those closest to me will read it and give me feedback, I’ll get some people who are actual editors to help the process along, and I myself will have to be critical of the work and rip some things in it to shreds. I’ve heard many a writer exclaim that the real novel comes out in the editing process, and lots of things that you may have found so important in draft one become unnecessary once you’ve gotten to the end and can see the big picture that is the novel as a whole. It’s going to be a new – and very different – experience compared to the creative rush that comes from filling a blank page with something. But as arduous a phase though it may be, its one I am incredibly excited for.

It’s the next chapter in the book of my life as a writer.

Which brings me to 2016. What will this year hold for They Are the Last? Will I find an agent? Will I change my mind and decide to self publish? Will I end up having to scrap it and start anew?

Who freaking knows?

It’s going to be thrilling and scary and fun and exciting and nauseating and probably lots of other emotions that I can’t fathom right now cause my brain is kind of mush after all I accomplished yesterday . . .

In short, 2016 is going to be quite an adventure, and while this book is taking up about 145678% of my headspace right now, there are also many other exciting things to come for me this year as well! (Some of which I will be writing about in blog posts to come later this week!)

I’m just really happy to say I’ve kept at it with this blog, and hope that 2016 brings about even more posts and continues to give enjoyment to the life of anyone who might be reading. And now I leave you with this, a delightful post I saw on tumblr this morning that perfectly captures how I feel about me, my book, my life, and this year.

Have a safe and blessed new year, everyone!