My god/guard/Buddha-daughter is brilliant. (All of them are actually – obviously! – but in this case I’m talking about Lily, who is 15 this year.)
Lily’s given me permission to share this piece. I love that she attributes the quote, I love that she references Theodora, but most of all, I love her last line.
(And if you’re not a young adult or someone for whom grades count, consider substituting the word ‘grades’ for family/faith/partner/children/job/society/reviews(!). See? Works just as well.)
To quote John Green: ‘There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after.’
Life sucks, and our future is inevitable, but I suggest that no matter how small you might feel, or how threatened by your fate you are, try to make a mark, an imprint in humankind, and think about the immediate future, how anything can happen. Take Theodora for example. She came to be perhaps the most influential and powerful woman in the history of the Roman Empire, but do you know how she started out? Her father was a bear trainer and her mother was an actress. The family became poor and starving after their father was killed and all the children became actresses/comediennes; ie, whores. She then became acquainted with Justinian I, who loved her for her beauty, her wit and her amusing character. Justinian was the heir to the throne of his uncle, Emperor Justin I, and therefore due to the roman law could not marry Theodora. But the moment his uncle died, he repealed the law and married her. She literally started at the bottom and then basically took over the Christian World.
I don’t expect you to suddenly have the ambition of Theodora, but don’t let your talent go to waste. Life IS hard, trust me, with everyone I love dying, my faith crumbling and my grades being lower than ever, I know. Just believe in yourself and know that, even though it doesn’t seem like it now, it does get better. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next Picasso, maybe you’ll be the next Freud, who knows? It’s YOUR decision who you want to be, not your grades.
ps, Lily (and anyone else who was nodding at the ‘life is hard’ bit) life can be hard, hell yes. It’s also glorious, astonishing, well worth living, thrilling, joyous and a privilege. Unfortunately, that’s a little easier to appreciate at almost 51, than at almost 15. xxx