Recently, I have been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is just something about it. It’s spooky without being too scary, the dialogue is snappy, and the characters are so real I feel like I’ve genuinely met them at some point in my life. And, like so many other pieces of media I consume and love, at the heart of the story we have a person who is the “Chosen One.” The prophecy surrounding them makes them the most special, the hero.
I think the reason I love shows like Buffy, and media like this in general, is that being the “Chosen One” of my own life sounds appealing. I think we all think it does, on some level. Why else would we continue writing stories like this? Most great franchises have the Chosen One at the core of the story. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Buffy, Game of Thrones – they all have the Chosen One as the hero. Being the “Chosen One” is a surefire way to make the protagonist special, otherwise why should we care about them?
I don’t know if I am the “Chosen One.” It would be awesome if I was. I would love to develop some sort of superpower and save the world. I like to think my media consumption is preparing me to answer the call of my destiny, should destiny ever see fit. I don’t think it will.
You can’t call destiny up on the phone and ask for a moment to occur to change your life forever. It isn’t like destiny is a waitress and you can ask why your life’s purpose is taking so long. Destiny does as it will, and you have to wait for your calling to be the Chosen One. And that is why I don’t think I am.
I’ve never had a moment where angels descended from on high and then I was surrounded by a halo of overwhelming purpose. I’ve had incredible experiences in my life, but never anything that quite felt like destiny. And I’m okay with that. I used to be very envious of people who seemed to have found their life’s calling early on in life. But envy – while a valid emotion – I find to be unproductive. If it doesn’t spur you forward, what is the point? If it doesn’t call you to action, why indulge it? Not feeling like I am the “Chosen One” hasn’t stopped me from reaching for my goals.
Maybe I’ll never have a moment where I feel like I’m destined for greatness. But the life I can see in front of me doesn’t look like a consolation prize. It looks like my next great adventure.
The two ran, hand-in-hand, as the lights began to fade behind them. Their backs glowed as their shadows cast among the reedgrass in front of them.
Silence. The groans of the town had faded. The blaring car horns were lost in the sound of the dry grass grazing their legs as they ran. For miles, all that could be seen was reedgrass as tall as their hips or shoulders, stretching across the hills.
Ava and Anna bounded towards the trunk with the beat of their footsteps cheering and motivating as drums. As they finally reached the roots of the tree, they collapsed to the ground. There, they lay panting; chests rising and falling, until their breath evened out and matched the serenity of the beautiful world around them.
“Let’s keep going!” Ava’s eyes beamed up at her older sister in expectation and hope. She was far too young to understand that life had so little to bring; her mind was just too full of hope and adventure.
Ava often dreamt of holding Anna’s hand as they ran through the hills. But instead of stopping at their tree, they continued to run. Past the dunes and the signs that lead them back home, through the fence that had entrapped them for so long, and to the edge of the world, wherever their feet would allow them to go.
Sometimes Ava would dream of a huge lake, with fish and lily pads, and the promise of change.
In darker times, she would dream of a long road, cracked and battered, and no matter how far the two of them walked, the road always led them back home.
“We can’t.” Anna said, running her fingers through Ava’s curly red hair. She began to hum Ava’s favorite lullaby, the same one their mother would rock them to sleep with.
“Don’t be stupid” Anna mumbled. Tears began to pool under her eyes as she spoke. “You need to understand that there’s nothing out there for us, Ava. If you ran, I wouldn’t follow you. I know you’re curious, but when you grow up you’ll understand. All we have left is each other. There’s nothing out there.”
The silence became unbearably deafening, and Ava decided to run. However it was no longer in spite of what had restricted her, it was the security of knowing that Anna would indeed be running behind her as she went. She heard Anna screaming her name as she chased her up and down the valleys, and to the wooden fence they had never dared to cross.
Ava waited for Anna to come, and by the time she caught up, she was sobbing. Her ragged green dress was stained with dirt and splattered in tears.
“If you go, I’m not following you Ava.”
“Come on!” Ava bent over and climbed through the space between the wooden planks. She didn’t turn around as she kept walking, in hopes that Anna had jumped the fence and would soon clench her hand as they walked together.
She had walked about a mile until she saw the edge of the trees. They seemed to call her name as the occasional breeze came and went, and ruffled the branches in a dance of expectation.
She had never seen woods like these. When she began to immerse herself in the trees, for the first time ever she felt scared. The leaves and branches beneath her cracked as she stepped, while she watched many more leaves fall from the towering trees above.
The darkness of dusk crept, and began to fill the woods with dim moonlight. Ava started to hear more; a frog croaking, a twig breaking, an owl calling. She saw a deer grazing by a dogwood tree in front of her, and as she took another step forward, the deer cocked it’s head and stared at her.
The sound of the shot was deafening. Her ears rang as the woods spun around her, and she watched the deer dash away; dancing between the trees as if on stage.
She hadn’t seen the hunter, he had been aiming for the doe that escaped death.
She collapsed to the ground and watched the stars and trees that hovered above her twist and spin like a merry-go-round. She clasped her hands to her stomach and felt her blood begin to pool around her.
She closed her eyes and pictured herself floating in the lake she so often dreamed of. She imagined Anna floating next to her, humming their mother’s lullaby and reaching for her hand.
“Let’s keep going” Ava whispered, and the world fell silent.
As most people will tell you, high school is not easy.
I went to a small, all-girls, private school in Greenwich, CT, which was my own personal version of hell. I was out of place in so many ways when I started 9th grade. These girls bought backpacks worth hundreds of dollars, while I bought mine for $20 at Target.
They were all so beautiful. The majority looked like Barbie dolls: tall with straight, silky hair, skinny and radiating with confidence. Meanwhile, I was tiny with thin, frizzy hair, quiet, and meek. Keep in mind, there were a few special butterflies like myself, but I stand by the fact that most girls were outwardly flawless.
However, when you’re trying to discover your identity, it doesn’t help when you’re surrounded by women who show you everything that you are not. My meager confidence dwindled, and I started to keep my head down. I tried to be friends with some of the kinder girls, and that worked out for a while.
I got particularly close to one girl, Anna, and we became best friends. She had severe depression and anxiety and needed me there to help her and be there for her; a role that I was more than happy to take on.
When Anna’s troubles got too much for her in 12th grade, she decided to transfer to a high school in a different state.
I thought that some of the other girls we would hang out with might reach out to me, given how devastated I was by Anna leaving. But instead, they took her transfer as an opportunity to stop hanging out with me once and for all. As it turns out, they only tolerated me because they had been friends with Anna many years before I arrived.
I spent the remainder of my senior year alone, surrounded by a sea of girls who acted like I was invisible. By the time graduation came about, I was beyond relieved to never have to step foot in those halls again.
I left immediately after graduation to find work at a beach town in Long Island three hours away so I would not have to run into anyone I knew. I left high school with a mistrust of females my age that reached down to my core.
I hated how the girls in high school made me feel, and that hatred generalized itself to include anyone who reminded me of them. My mother, who had always been an amazing supporter for me, decided that I needed to overcome my fear of women before entering college, and I think a part of me agreed with her.
As a graduation present, she wanted to sign us up for a surf trip in Nicaragua. The catch? It was ONLY girls.
The idea of spending a week with only women terrified me. After much debate, I decided that I could not miss out on an opportunity to surf in a country on my bucket list, and I really was hoping that my least favorite gender would redeem themselves.
The day my mom and I arrived at the surf camp, we were greeted by the women who ran the camp, who were (to my delight!) two beautiful, tall blonde women, just a few years older than me. I couldn’t swallow my disdain.
We met the other women in the program: another mother-daughter pair and the other female surf instructors. The instructors explained to us that each day, we would go to a beach and the instructors would take us into the ocean and coach us to improve.
Being already proficient at surfing, I assumed that I could just go out into the water and surf alone and would not have to interact with the others. With that thought in mind, I slept peacefully that night.
As the week went on, I found that all of the women in the program were individually inspiring. The two blonde women, Noelani and Lauren, were encouraging and supportive. They helped me improve my surfing, and I found myself wanting to spend time with them.
As it turns out, Noelani didn’t like the people she went to college with and did not enjoy her experience there. She showed me that it was okay that I didn’t fit in during high school and made me realize that there was much more to come.
One of my sister’s friends was killed in a boating accident. My mom and I were shocked and devastated. Noelani, originally from Hawaii, showed us how to make leis out of flowers to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death. Together, we released the leis into the ocean and prayed for her soul.
Surfing was something that was always extremely important to me, but until this trip, my mom had never stood up on a surfboard. Noelani and Lauren brought my mom and I closer as they helped her reach her goal. When my mom first stood up on the board, I was glowing with pride and felt like my mom was proud of me.
All of the mother-daughter pairs at the surf camp had different qualities. The mother, Shelly, seemed hard and strict at first, but throughout the experience she softened.
The daughter, Maya, was about 12 years old and loved to read. She was tiny with short dark hair, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of myself when I was her age. She would tell me about her stories, and I would tell her about mine. I could tell how much she looked up to me.
On the final day of the trip, Noelani asked me if I had reached the goal I set for myself on the first day: to master dropping in on steep waves. While I did reach this goal, I admitted to myself and Noelani that I had also reached a different goal: to love myself for who I was.
My friendships with these women made me realize that my problem wasn’t with women, it was with myself. People are going to act how they are going to act, and there is nothing I can do about that. What I can do is not let others dictate my self confidence.
It has been a year and a half since that surf trip, and ever since then, I remember that I choose my own worth. I choose what impact I am going to make. I choose.