GIRL CRUSH: JOAN DIDION
There are a few essays and novels that have already proved timeless to me in my young age: John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, Ernest Hemingway's The End of Something, Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, Patti Smith's Just Kids, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Charles Bukowski's The Pleasures of the Damned, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, and Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. These are words I have turned to for solace when I am particularly low, and for companionship when I've hit a high.
Joan Didion's essay 'On Self-Respect' from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, in particular, has had a demonstrable influence on the young woman I am today. I've found that the lowest times in my life have been times that have been accompanied by both a lack of self-respect and a lack of self-responsibility. Didion finds these two qualities inseparable; one must act with strong character in order to develop a strong sense of self-respect. She writes, "Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life — is the source from which self-respect springs."
2014 was a really big year for me: I walked away from a toxic, long-term relationship; graduated college; was hired on my first job; and signed on to my first independent lease. It was highlighted by a wonderful sense of liberation and independence, but getting there also hit many low points of self-doubt, loneliness, and, to be frank, selfishness and narcissism. In those low points, I would always pull out my battered copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, knowing that I would need to be reminded that it takes strong character and honesty to preserve one's own happiness. It's funny how we often know what remedies we need - it's asking for them that seems to be the difficult part.
I would consider myself a generally introspective person, but I become particularly reflective at the end of the year. I'm an avid journaler, and so I've allowed myself to look back at the triumphs and tribulations of my past year. Reading through my messy handwriting, it makes me smile to see the countless times I've pulled this essay out to pull myself back together. Sometimes the best kind of advice is the hard advice. Thanks for the tough love, Joan - and here's to many more late-night reads to come.