This post originally appeared on my old blog about a year ago. Emily suggested I repost it to But First, Coffee. Enjoy!
A girl’s life is tough when most of her heroes are that of fiction. I have realized recently that most women I look up to are heroines from movies or literature; they aren’t real.
But they are real to me.
My mother always read aloud to me books with spunky, outspoken, and “hopelessly flawed” heroines. There were books like “Anne of Green Gables,” and movies such as “Emma” and “Pollyanna.” I was fortunate enough to be subjected to shaped by the characters found within these various works of literature and cinema. Anne, Emma, Pollyanna, and Elizabeth Bennett have influenced who I have become and more importantly, who I strive to be.
If I had to point to one movie that I have desired to shape my life after it would be “Little Women.” Before my two youngest siblings were born, sometimes it felt like my family was the March family in more ways than one. I had three little sisters and many of our personality traits matched up to those of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Every holiday season, we would snuggle up by the fire and watch that movie at the request of my mother, who sometimes even called us her “little women.” My sister Kelli is Meg to a tee. I was always pegged as Jo.
Here are five things that I have learned from Jo March.
1. It is ok to stand too close to the fire.
Jo’s carelessness has become a metaphor for my entire life. Every dress that Jo March owned had burn marks on the back as a result of standing near the fireplace. She’s a hot mess. literally.
But she goes to the ball anyway.
2. Hold out on the German Professor.
Laurie (played by the dreamy Christian Bale) proposed to her and she turned him down. A sane woman does not turn down Christian Bale. Given, I’ll admit that I’m not fending off potential suitors left and right or anything, but my point is that Jo knew that they might be happy, but not “truly, madly, deeply in love” kind of happy. So she waited. And waited…and saw her sisters marry…and waited some more.
I admire her patience.
But then someone better than she ever expected came along…someone perfect for her and her imperfection.
3. As a writer, satisfaction comes from writing what you know.
For most of her life, Jo always wrote loftily; what she though people wanted to hear: great, epic tales of forbidden romance and darkness. But Friedrich (the man she would eventually love) challenged her.
Friedrich: “You must write from life, from the depths of your soul!”
Jo: “Friedrich, this is what I write. My apologies if it fails to live up to your high standards.”
Friedrich: “Jo, there is more to you than this. If you have the courage to write it.”
If I ever become a writer, I desire to be known deeply by what I write.
4. Breaking down to your mother every once in awhile is perfectly acceptable.
After Jo refuses Laurie’s proposal and her little sister Amy is offered the ultimate Europe trip, she cries to her mother (Of course played by Susan Sarandon…the perefect mom figure.) and expresses feeling out of place and awkward.
Well, of course Aunt March prefers Amy over me. Why shouldn’t she? I’m ugly and awkward and I always say the wrong things. I fly around throwing away perfectly good marriage proposals. I love our home, but I’m just so fitful and I can’t stand being here! I’m sorry, I’m sorry Marmee. There’s just something really wrong with me. I want to change, but I – I can’t. And I just know I’ll never fit in anywhere.
I love this. And I love Marmee’s response:
Oh, Jo. Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life? You’re ready to go out and – and find a good use for your talent. Tho’ I don’t know what I shall do without my Jo. Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it.
5. Always go to New York. Always.
So, she leaves. She leaves home, she leaves her family, and everything that is comfortable. But the most significant thing to note is that she comes back home…eventually. Even though the city feels “cold and strange” she finds her way there, and comes home to fulfill. Jo taught me that its all well and good to want to end up at home; where you started, but the act of leaving often changes us- changes us in the way that we are able to appreciate the things that before seemed tiresome and mundane.
This holiday season, my mom, my sisters and I will undoubtedly curl up by the fireplace and watch “Little Women.”
I can’t wait.