Category Archives: Current Inspirations

Weekend in Monroeville, Alabama

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“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”–Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that resonates with readers in different ways. It’s one of those stories in which a reader might discover one meaning the first time they read it, and then discover another the next. Many of us have a favorite line or quote, and whether or not we’ve read it once or one hundred times, we can remember the first time we read it. It speaks to something inside of us, pulling on a memory, thought, or feeling.

The stories in this book have meant something different to me each time I’ve read them, but the quote above has always stopped me for a few moments before turning the page. It reminds me to take nothing for granted, and at the same time reminds me that I so very often do just that.

It has been more of a problem lately than before, and in the whirlwind that is graduate school, I know why. I blame this lack of appreciation for the small things on stress, and yes, I realize that is, as my mother would say, nobody’s fault but my own. My attention is on projects, papers, and presentations, and I forget to take the time to just be thankful for all I’ve been given. Deadline after deadline cause me to forget to stop, take a deep breath, and be proud of all I have accomplished so far. As this semester comes to a close, my classmates and I are constantly reminding each other that if we could make it this far, we can make it for a few more weeks. Even with those reminders, however, it is hard not to get caught up in the pressure of it all.

A weekend getaway without laptops and worry is the best medicine, and last weekend was a testament to that. Thanks to our wonderful professor Dr. Bragg, who snagged tickets to the sold out event for us months ago, a few classmates and I were able to attend the To Kill a Mockingbird play with her in Monroeville, Alabama. If you haven’t seen this play, I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, I’m sure you would agree with me. The amateur cast is comprised completely of volunteers, but they are extremely talented and passionate. Many of them have been part of the cast for years.

While I was blown away by the play, it was only one of the ingredients for the perfect weekend.

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We drove from Tuscaloosa to Monroeville on Saturday, giving ourselves enough time to visit the historic courthouse for a tour of the museum inside. After having lunch at David’s Catfish House, we visited the site of Truman Capote’s childhood home, and had ice cream at Mel’s Dairy Dream next door.

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Becky, Elizabeth, and I wanted to see as much history as we could while in Monroeville, and after ice cream, we set out on one of the driving tours we had learned of in the museum. We spent an hour or two just admiring old buildings and stopping to read the occasional historical marker. The only thing we had to do was make it back to the courthouse in time to get good seats for the play. Once there, we enjoyed cokes in glass bottles and a perfect spring night that ended with drinks and appetizers at the Prop & Gavel, a restaurant that is right across from the courthouse.

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What made this weekend so special, and maybe even healing, in my case, was the feeling of having nowhere to be and nothing to worry about. On Sunday, we drove back to Tuscaloosa feeling a lot less stressed than we were two days before. As we drove through the countryside, we stopped to take pictures of beautiful plantation homes, old churches, and wildflowers. We left the main road a few times just to drive through small towns we had never seen before. We stopped for ice cream in Marion and had lunch in Centreville.



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Like Harper Lee’s words, this weekend reminded me to appreciate the small things. It often takes losing something to realize how much it meant to you, but this was a different sort of wake up call. This was a reminder of the things I do have, and though I know I’ll probably forget to appreciate them time and time again, I’m thankful I remembered in Monroeville.

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Country Music Icon Glen Campbell Moved to Alzheimer’s Facility

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It was announced earlier this week that country music star Glen Campbell, 78, has been moved into an Alzheimer’s facility. In a statement they gave to Rolling Stone, Campbell’s family said,“Sadly, Glen’s condition has progressed enough that we were no longer able to keep him at home. He is getting fantastic care and we get to see him every day. Our family wants to thank everyone for their continued prayers, love and support.”

The Rhinestone Cowboy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, but he continued to perform despite his diagnosis. Campbell set out on a global farewell tour and released two new LPs– 2011’s Ghost on the Canvas and 2013’s See You There. Though he was already beginning to forget his song lyrics and sometimes made mistakes during performances, Campbell was able to keep performing with the help of his family. Three of his children, including his youngest daughter Ashley who is 25, joined their father’s backup band for the tour. Talented musicians themselves, their main purpose for going on tour with their father was to care for him as the disease progressed. Campbell would often begin playing a song he had just finished playing during the performance, but his children were there to remind him of it. He would then joke about his forgetfulness on stage and move on like nothing had happened. Campbell’s daughter Ashley told CBS Sunday Morning that she and her brothers were there to help their father when he got lost. Plus, they didn’t want anyone to think his memory loss was caused by anything other than Alzheimer’s. 

“I feel a little protective of him, you know,” she said. “I just want to make sure if he needs anything from me, I’m there and I’m paying attention.”

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In that same interview, Ashley told CBS Sunday Morning that she missed the man her father was, but was still very proud when she watched him perform during his Goodbye Tour.

Instead of giving up after hearing his diagnosis, Glen Campbell continued to do what he loved for as long as he was able to. He and his family didn’t hide his diagnosis from the public either. They were open from the beginning. Even when Campbell began forgetting that he was ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his wife wasn’t afraid to speak out.

Campbell’s Goodbye Tour ended early due to the progression of his disease, but the Alzheimer’s Association and other advocacy groups are saying that what he and his family have done despite the disease is unprecedented and inspirational. On May 17, 2012, he performed at an Alzheimer’s event at the Library of Congress.

 

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ESPN and Alzheimer’s- The perfect combination to raise awareness

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there have been more articles about Alzheimer’s research and awareness in the past few months than ever before. Maybe it’s always been in the headlines or maybe it’s just that I notice any headline that mentions the disease now because I am so focused on my project, which is about Alzheimer’s care. Either way, I’ve read quite a few interesting articles about research and awareness of the disease this year.

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The most recent article that I read about the disease was on ESPN. com, where you might least expect to find it. Entitled “Precious Memories,” the article is an in-depth profile of former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, who held a record number of wins when he retired in 1997. He led an extremely successful career, but today, Smith has Alzheimer’s, and his family fears he doesn’t remember any of it. The man who always seemed to have the sharpest memory in the family might not even know who he is.

The article is beautifully written and very well done. It tugs on your heart as you read the extremely personal story, but it also gives the important facts and statistics of the disease at the same time. With more than 5 million people living with the disease, the Smith family’s experience isn’t uncommon. What makes it such an important story, however, is that it is about a prominent sports figure, which means that it will more than likely reach a much more diverse group of people than most other articles about Alzheimer’s can hope to do. Just as Seth Rogen is trying to raise awareness among young people, this article makes Alzheimer’s a topic of conversation for sports fans. Educating more people about this disease is an important step in raising funding for research.

According to an article in USA Today, the National Institutes of Health spends less money on Alzheimer’s research than it does on HIV/AIDS, even though the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is far greater. It is one of the most underfunded diseases, yet one of the most expensive.

Why do Alzheimer’s research organizations have such a hard time raising awareness and funding for this disease that still doesn’t have a cure? Well, there are a number of reasons, one of them being the idea that it is someone else’s problem until it directly affects you or your family. Another reason is the stigma that follows Alzheimer’s, and it has been very difficult to shake. Dr. Stan Goldberg, Professor Emeritus at San Francisco State University, says that there is a need for acceptance before awareness will hold any value.

“I would guess that before breast cancer funding dramatically increased, it was proceeded by a changed view society—and men in particular—had of women with breast cancer. I think before research funding for Alzheimer’s can substantially increase, society needs to see the person with Alzheimer’s as someone who lives with a dreadful illness, rather than someone who is the illness, with all of the stereotypes that our culture attaches to it.”

It’s going to take more people like Dean Smith’s family sharing their personal stories for people to begin to understand the affects this disease can have. I hope that reading their story will help others to find confidence in sharing their own. For those that haven’t been personally affected by Alzheimer’s, I believe hearing these stories will help them to truly realize the importance of finding a cure.

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Seth Rogen on Capitol Hill last week…

I’m sure you heard about actor Seth Rogen‘s hilarious and heartfelt speech about Alzheimer’s that he gave last Wednesday before the Senate. Rogen talked about his family’s personal experience with the disease, hoping to raise awareness and inspire others to speak up about their experiences.

Sprinkled with self-deprecating jokes, Rogen’s speech was both funny and serious at the same time. He said he was there for a few reasons, the first being that he is a huge fan of House of Cards. His second more serious reason was that Alzheimer’s care is expensive, and that caregivers need more financial support.

“Therefore, I can’t begin to imagine how people with more limited incomes are dealing with this,” Rogen said. “As you’ve also heard, studies show that Alzheimer’s and related dementia is the most costly condition in the United States. Yes, it’s more costly than heart disease in a country where, for $1.29, you can get a taco made out of Doritos. They’re delicious but they’re not healthy. While deaths from other major diseases, like heart disease, HIV and strokes continue to decline, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased almost 70 percent in the last 15 years. Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s and at this rate, in 35 years, as many as 16 million will have the disease.”

Rogen also wanted to use his speech to make those who are affected by this disease feel less alone.

“The third reason I’m here, simply, is to show people that they’re not alone,” Rogen said. “So few people share their personal story, so few people have something to relate to. I know that if me and my wife saw someone like me talking about this, it would probably make us feel a little less alone. Americans whisper the word ‘Alzheimer’s’ because their government whispers the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ and although a whisper is better than silence that the Alzheimer’s community has been facing for decades, it’s still not enough. It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attention and the funding that it deserves and needs.”

I thought his speech was great. Rogen’s foundation ‘Hilarity for Charity‘ is all about getting young people involved, and that is exactly what is needed. We have to become more aware of this disease and its implications in order for anything to change.

Even if you aren’t a Rogen fan or interested in raising awareness for Alzheimer’s, I’m sure you saw this story in your newsfeed or heard about it from a friend. I can’t imagine how anyone could miss the incredible buzz it created on the internet. It’s not uncommon for celebrities to testify in front of the Senate, and Rogen’s status isn’t the reason his speech made headlines. What happened after the speech is what has everyone talking, or should I say, tweeting.

Annoyed that he spoke to a practically empty room, Rogen tweeted the following:

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When Senator Mark Kirk tweeted a thank you to the actor, Rogen fired back, making it known that Kirk wasn’t even present to hear his speech.

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While I doubt this was the buzz Rogen expected to gain, he and others involved with his charity foundation can be proud that they were able to make Alzheimer’s a topic of conversation last week.

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Inspiration from the IMPACT group

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A friend recently told me that the posts she enjoys reading most on my blog fall under the “current inspirations” category. If I were asked which ones are my favorite to write, I would say the same thing. I love writing about what inspires me, and my hope is that I will be able to tell a story in a way that inspires someone else.

During my time as a writer, I have had the opportunity to meet and write about some pretty fascinating people. I never know what an interview is going to be like until I’m there, and I have definitely interviewed people who weren’t passionate or excited about what they were telling me. As a journalist, you learn to move past those interviews, and you get through them just to get the story done. They aren’t memorable. The interviews that leave you feeling like you have the power to change the world, or that the person you just met is already changing it, are the ones that stay with you forever. They are the ones that remind you what it means to be passionate or to truly care about something, and they are filled with quotes that you couldn’t leave behind if you tried.

I interviewed a group of women for a story last semester, and while it might be a few months old, I consider it a current inspiration. The article was about a support group for breast cancer survivors in Tuscaloosa, and it ended up in the newspaper on Christmas day. It wasn’t my writing that made this such an amazing story. The three women that I interviewed are the reason it was so strong. My only regret was that I couldn’t take my readers to that morning at Chick-fil-a, where I sat down with three women I had never met, and listened as they poured out their hearts about surviving breast cancer, raising children, being young, and growing old. Their words would inspire anyone to keep fighting or just to be thankful for everything they have. All I could do was put them down on paper and hope that someone would read them. 

I’ve listed some of my favorite quotes from the article below, but you can find the complete article here.

1. “I was sitting there preparing to die when this little lady, as white-headed as she could be, came bouncing into my room. The only thing that I remember her saying was, ‘I was where you are now 16 years ago.’ Hearing her say she did this all those years ago was just a glimmer of hope when I didn’t have any.”

2. “I will honestly say from the bottom of my heart because of all the blessings, that even though I would have never wanted breast cancer and it sure wouldn’t have been on my prayer list, I wouldn’t give it back. I actually like the post-cancer me better than I like the pre-cancer me.”

3. “You can just live to get through the day, or you can live each day to the fullest, and I think IMPACT helps you do that. It makes you see each day as a gift, and it changes some of your priorities. I’m a better person because of it.”

4. “There is still somebody out there that needs that hope, and I still feel that pull to help someone else,” she said. “IMPACT has helped me to see that there is a happy, healthy, joyful life after breast cancer. I’m still here and I want to continue that encouragement.”

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You Can Always Start Again

Last week, I found inspiration in a place I least expected to discover it. Words of wisdom were shared with me in a time I most certainly needed to hear them, and I couldn’t help but feel as if they might help someone else.

I am currently working on a multimedia project focused on caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s for my master’s program. I will write more on the subject later, but to summarize for now, I will be telling the story of the day-to-day life of someone who cares for a family member with the disease. My plan is to follow multiple caregivers so that I can show this experience, while at the same time, create a community for them to feel connected to others who are like them.

I have been visiting Caring Days, an adult day care center in Tuscaloosa, in order to build relationships with the caregivers who bring their loved ones there. Clients participate in activities and exercises that help build and retain their cognitive and motor skills. On Friday, I was invited to sit in on an art therapy session with a group of University of Alabama Honors students who attend the sessions once a week for a class called Art to Life. (If you are interested in Art to Life or Cognitive Dynamics, please watch the video below.)

I watched as 95-year-old Mrs. Sarah, who used to paint before the disease stole her ability to do so, painted again. I listened as she recalled memories that she hadn’t visited in years. I had no idea that something so inspiring could come from something as simple as a cake pan filled with shaving creme and food coloring.

After filling the pan with shaving creme, the art therapist asked Mrs. Sarah to pour drops of food coloring over it. The talkative and outgoing woman asked one of the students to help her with the food coloring, a small sign that she was still hesitant. She repeatedly expressed that she missed being able to create art, and although she was very confident in the art therapist, she wasn’t confident in herself as an artist anymore. She was afraid that the skills she once possessed were gone. She feared she had lost them completely, just like many of the memories she longed to remember.

While one student poured the food coloring over the shaving creme, the others asked Mrs. Sarah to talk about her earliest childhood memories, her wedding day and her family. She was excited to share these experiences with the students, and would recall things she said she hadn’t spoken about in years. With each story she told, however, Mrs. Sarah would come to a point that she couldn’t remember, and would become frustrated with herself when she couldn’t bring the memory back or remember the words to say when it did. I watched as this very intelligent woman, who led a life well lived, began feeling insignificant and “not smart enough” to remember.

Mrs. Sarah was then asked to take a paint brush and drag it across the shaving creme, creating swirls and patterns of different colors. She wasn’t certain of herself, but kept “painting” at the encouragement of the others.

The next step in the process required Mrs. Sarah to take a piece of paper and lightly press it into the shaving creme. “Am I messing up? I hope I didn’t ruin it,” she said. When the paper was pressed to the bottom of the pan, the therapist gently pulled it back and scraped away the shaving creme with the edge of piece of cardboard. When the shaving creme was cleared away, the therapist revealed the finished product and asked the students to describe what they saw.

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“Happiness”

A dove. A flower. A butterfly. A party. These were the things the students saw in the abstract, and as they described them, tears filled her eyes. You see, there is something else you should know about Mrs. Sarah. Besides losing memories and mobility, Mrs. Sarah is losing her sight. She sees shapes, colors and outlines, but no detail. Yet, here she was crying because she had created something beautiful for others to see. That’s what art is after all, she said.

When the therapist asked her to name the piece, Mrs. Sarah said, “Happiness.” When the therapist asked her to describe how it made her feel, Mrs. Sarah said, “Like there is something there and you can start again.”

You can start again. How beautiful it was to hear those words from a woman who probably believed she would never get the chance to start again. She apologized for being emotional, but what she couldn’t see were the tears in everyone’s eyes. We all needed to hear that, and I’m sure we will need to be reminded of it again someday. At 95, Mrs. Sarah realized that she could start over, despite her age and her sickness. No matter what you are going through or what life throws your way, tomorrow is a new day, and you can always start again. 

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Miss Representation

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http://film.missrepresentation.org/trailer/

Netflix is a beautiful thing, and it’s a thing that I unfortunately do not have. If I did, I would have watched more than my fair share of cartoons from the 90s, old movies and, unsurprisingly, documentary films. I could spend hours and hours  just watching TV, but that wouldn’t be very productive, inspiring, or worth my time, right? Wrong.

What started as a girl’s night in at a friend’s apartment over winter break turned into an inspirational, eye opening experience, and it was all because of a documentary film we found on Netflix. Miss Representation, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, connects the lack of women in positions of influence and power in the United States to the misrepresentation of women in mainstream media.

The website gives the following synopsis:

The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself. In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors. Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.

While there were a few facts and statistics that I was familiar with, there were many more that I was not. I already knew that women are so often misrepresented in movies, on TV, and in advertisements, but this documentary made me think about it more than I had ever before. It gave me the numbers to prove that this is a problem. Statistics were given on a variety of topics, including the number of women represented in government positions, the increase in eating disorders and cosmetic surgery among women in recent years, and the amount of time American teenagers spend watching TV. They are all interesting, but I will share with you the ones that have the most obvious connection with media:

  • In 2011, only 11% of protagonists in films were female.
  • Between 1937 and 2005 there were only 13 female protagonists in animated films. All of them except one had the aspiration of finding romance.
  • Women hold only 5% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising.

Silenced- Gender Gap in the 2012 Presidential Election

I’ve never really liked labels, and I am always hesitant to align myself with groups. I have never used the word feminist when describing myself, but if by writing this post and by supporting this cause I have become one, so be it. I hate when people blame their problems and shortcomings on an entire demographic, and while some might think this project does that, I do not. It simply highlights a problem that we, men and women, must work together to solve. The people behind the Representation Project are taking the conversation a step further by announcing that they are creating a second documentary film entitled The Mask You Live In, which asks how our society is also failing boys. Like Miss Representation, the 2014 film will question the way men are represented in the media and highlight the affects that these representations have on boys of all ages.

The creators behind Miss Representation have done more than just create a documentary film. They have started a project, inviting people to take a pledge and take action. I decided to take that pledge, and as a journalist, maybe I can help create change by writing about it. 

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Multimedia Storytelling at Food Blog South

fbsI, along with two of my classmates, volunteered at Food Blog South in Birmingham this weekend. I did not expect I would learn as much as I did because I am not a food blogger, even though I would love to learn to be. I don’t write about food and will more than likely never create my own cookbook, but I gained valuable tips from a session on just that. I have never tried my hand at food photography on anything other than my iphone, but I had a wonderful conversation with a photographer who inspired me to try with a real camera. Yet, what I found most helpful was a session on multimedia storytelling. If you are at all interested in this type of journalism, keep reading for a few inspirational lines and tips that I picked up while there.

Joe York is a filmmaker who works with the Southern Foodways Alliance to “tell the stories of the culture behind food.” He opened the session by admitting that he wouldn’t be talking about blogging, but that using multimedia to tell a story can add depth to anything. After watching a few of York’s films, I completely agree. As a writer, it can be daunting to realize that today’s readers might want more than just words on a page, but it doesn’t have to be. Writers should be excited that we have the tools to share our stories in such innovative ways. York really made this point clear to me when he read an excerpt from  Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and asked us to imagine the way the story might have been told if James Agee had access to multimedia tools when he was writing it. (If you don’t know anything about the book, here is an interesting article that can fill you in.)

York shared the following excerpt with us:

If I could do it, I’d do no writing at all here. It would be photographs; the rest would be fragments of cloth, bits of cotton, lumps of earth, records of speech, pieces of wood and iron, phials of odors, plates of food and of excrement. Booksellers would consider it quite a novelty; critics would murmur, yes, but is it art; and I could trust a majority of you to use it as you would a parlor game… As it is though, I’ll do what little I can in writing.”

When I read this, I get the feeling that Agee was afraid he wouldn’t be able to accurately encapsulate everything that he saw with printed words alone. He wanted his readers to feel as if they were there, and to see the things he saw. What he wished he could produce, as York pointed out, was a form of multimedia. In 1936, Agee couldn’t have foreseen the tools that writers of the future would have at their fingertips, but had he had them, I’m almost positive he would have used them. Realizing this has inspired me to push aside the fear of learning new ways to tell a story. York said, “Multimedia is about perspective. You have a perspective that they don’t.” As a journalist, I thrive on giving someone a new perspective, and gaining one myself. Multimedia tools make it easier to see something in a way you hadn’t before.

Here are just a few of the things I learned from York’s session:

1. You don’t have to live by the 3-4 minute rule for video. It depends on the subject and your audience. York, for example, showed us a film that was a little over 9 minutes. In this case, a longer film worked, but in other cases, it might be best to keep it short. The point is that it is all up to you.

2. People will forgive bad video if you have good audio. York said that the audio in a video is the most important part. He recommended using a zoom microphone to record the audio instead of the built in microphone on your camera.

3. Learn by doing. York believes the best way to learn is just by picking up a camera and giving it a try. He said, “Interview your kid. Interview your grandmother. Interview your dog. You never know what they might say.”

4. Study your subject before you start filming. You should be passionate about the story you are telling, and should learn as much about it as you can. York showed us a film he made about a Louisiana woman named Alzina. When explaining what it means to become an expert on your film’s topic, York said, “Alzina is a foreign language, and it’s my job to be fluent in Alzina.”

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A lesson from Lady Sybil and Cousin Matthew

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If you have talked with me in the last two months, seen my tweets in the last few weeks, or read my blog in the last few hours you probably know of my obsession with the PBS series Downton Abbey. My obsession began over winter break, a time that is best suited for catching up with friends, family, and of course, TV. My mother has been a devoted Downton viewer from the beginning, and she had insisted again and again that I would love it, even though I didn’t need much convincing. It’s a show filled with British accents, British history, British drama, British heartthrobs, British countryside, British castles, and Maggie Smith, also very British. Need I say more?

It will come as no surprise then that I was hooked from the very first episode. My intentions to watch just one episode a day quickly faded from mind as I became more attached. I needed to know what would happen next to this family that I could no longer remember not knowing. My days were spent at Downton, and my dreams were filled with its stories.

There is one particular episode that, until the current season began, I couldn’t escape. The finale of season three left me shocked, heartbroken, and angry. How could Matthew die when everything seemed so right? (For those of you who don’t watch the show, Matthew was one of the main characters from the first three seasons. To make a long story short, the closing scene was of Matthew dying in a car accident. As if killing off a character that everyone loved wasn’t bad enough, Matthew’s wife had just given birth to their son. Everyone was happy and then disaster struck, leaving me and every other Downton addict distraught.)

I couldn’t understand why the show’s writers would want this to happen. Matthew was a favorite, and in the span of two weeks, had become one of my favorites. I was shocked, but I really had no right to be. In fact, something similar had occurred before in the series. By similar I mean that a main character, a character that was given the most likable personality and storyline, was suddenly removed from the show by means of death. This character was Lady Sybil, the youngest of Lord Grantham’s daughters, who died while giving birth to her first child. It was a horrific scene, and I was distraught then, too.

My shock led me to do what any sensible twenty-something would do. I googled it. I searched for the answer as to why my new favorite show, and family, had let me down. I wanted to find an article that said the actors whose characters died were just as angry as I was, but, of course, I didn’t. Instead, I found them saying that they would miss the show, but were excited to move on with their careers. I watched an interview with one of the writers of the show that made it sound as if it wasn’t their fault for Matthew’s untimely death. Matthew had to die because Dan Stevens, the actor who played him, was ready to leave. How could he be ready to leave?

I was angry until I read an interview with Stevens, and his explanations for leaving the show changed my mind. Dan Stevens was ready to move on because he needed to see what else was out there. The man who says he wants to be in movies, theatre, and even directing positions is getting the opportunity to try them all. He has already seen so much success, but some say he still might one day regret his decision, and he admits that there is always that possibility. I’m sure it took a lot of courage to decide to leave a show that brought him so much fame without having any way of knowing what would happen if he did.

There is a lesson in this story, and it’s a lesson we have all heard a million times, but need to be reminded of often. Taking that leap of faith into the unknown is always scary, but if you never jump, you’ll never know what might’ve been. It’s so easy to stick with what is comfortable instead of chasing those difficult dreams. As someone who admits to overanalyzing every decision I’m asked to make, I struggle with trusting my instincts and jumping. It was just a few days ago that the woman who told me to watch Downton Abbey told me that making a decision is almost always better than not deciding at all. I think it was Emerson who said that all of life is just an experiment, and the “more experiments you make the better.”

Dan Stevens is just a good example of why we shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, get out of our comfort zones, and jump. 

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“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be led by your dreams.”

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