Stories that Keep Me Alive

I binged the Rooster Teeth anime show RWBY (“ruby”) over the last few weeks. Wow, was it good. It strikes that balance between humor and intensity, with deep character development, an overwhelmingly SFP cast, and a thrilling plot. I was supremely impressed.

As I watched the Volume 4 finale (no spoilers, I promise!), I felt that eagerness inside me. The yearning, the sense of something real, something worth fighting for. Watching Ren fight a monster and his past at the same time made me feel all the things. Watching he and Nora interact over, well, everything – that ignited that light inside me.

It’s the same thrill in my gut I get reading and watching Fairy Tail. When Erza returns to the Tower of Heaven and faces Jellal. When Natsu and Gray have their first ever I-actually-hate-you fight over E.N.D. When Happy burns his paws pulling Natsu away from Zeref. When Gajeel, Levy, and the Strausses crest that hill and see a field of their allies…crucified.

There’s some fucking intense shit which goes down in there, but it’s that stuff which makes me feel alive. I have seen plenty of darkness, but I want to fight it. Sometimes, in our cushy world, surrounded by people who don’t understand, who weren’t raped as kids nor battled their way out from under a mountain of spiritual baggage – it’s easy to feel my pain isn’t a pervasive reality. Or isn’t as important as I think it is. Or that I’m being dramatic, or…

It’s easy to feel silly for having all this darkness inside of me.

But I do have a lot of shit in my past. I am witness to some intensely dark things, and I can’t pretend they didn’t happen, or that they aren’t happening around me to other people all the time. Sometimes the world feels like a place where picking up a sword doesn’t sound all that off-base, and I don’t think it’s silly to feel that way.

Like most people, I’m looking for a happy ending. I want to know there’s good at the end of it all. That when all of time and existence is summed up, the scales tip to the side of goodness, beauty, and compassion. But my happy ending has to involve going through the deepest, darkest forests first, or it just doesn’t ring true for me.

My denouement cannot come when inner darkness hasn’t been addressed. It feels like leaving things unfinished.

I can’t stand reading thrillers and other modern-set stories with darkness and violence. It hits too close to home, and is too often triggering for me. It’s too similar. But the sheer fucking terror of staring down the monster who destroyed your childhood? That I can relate with.

That’s why I read fantasy and speculative stories. They put me in that place of darkness without triggering me – and then bring me through to the other side.

Because that’s what all these stories have in common as well: a resolution. Erza sees the end to the Tower and Zeref’s grasp on Jellal’s mind. Natsu and Gray realize they value each other more than their vendettas. Happy saves his best friend and Natsu takes care of him just like the two of them always do. Sabertooth’s and Blue Pegasus’s lost battles are fully avenged and Gajeel gets some redemption in the process.

And in RWBY, Ren and Nora get to see the end to the monster which started all their pain.

That gives me hope to stick things out. If Ren and Nora can get their resolution, then maybe Jaune can get his regarding Pyrrha. Maybe Blake will get hers with Adam. Maybe Yang will resolve things with Raven.

Maybe I will get resolution for the pains I’m still carrying around, too.

I’ve come through some of my dark places. Come through some of them miraculously unscathed, and others with scars which I’m now kind of proud of. These stories I read and watch remind me that resolution is possible – I’ve seen it – and so it can be possible again. If I fight for what’s right, good things can indeed come of it, no matter how shitty things look right now.

If monsters are a metaphor for the pain I’ve had to witness in the world, then magic and swords are the symbols of our continued fight to stop it. And the happily-ever-after on the final pages of my favorite books are reminders that my story can, and will dammit, have a positive ending too.

The heroines and heroes are who I want to be. They make me feel less alone (fictitious though they are, since they too represent a reality in our own world). These heroes remind me the impossible is possible.

So I can keep fighting.

So that feeling in my gut when my favorite characters face a threat which is unreal in our world but all too real in the story? That’s important – vital. The more storytellers make me feel that fear, pain, and despair, the more they make me believe in the joy at the story’s exhilarating end.

The more they can give me hope.