Shaping My Summer Around “Jane Eyre”


The summers of 2014, 2015, and 2016 were rough for me. And by rough, I mean catastrophic. Each in succession was worse than the last, and at times I am genuinely astounded that I made it out in one piece.

This summer, on the other hand, has been totally palatable. Not amazing, but decent. Survivable. Nothing major has happened, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a lot of reasons for the change (I have a job, college has empowered me, I’m not working through a breakup, etc.) but I feel like I owe a lot to a session with my therapist in June.

Historically, a lot of problems in my life are a result of the fact that I constantly crave validation from others. I sometimes behave in way that I myself abhor, and I know I annoy others with my incessant cries for attention. After my therapist revealed these facts about myself (which are demonstrably on-point), I gave myself a mantra that has been working really well. Every time I feel myself drifting from my resolve to rectify myself, I say this sentence quietly to myself and it will immediately bring ease to my bones.

Where else would a pretentious English major find a mantra but among the pages of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous work?

I admit that Jane Eyre is my favorite book. And while that fact may liken me to a slew of obnoxious YA protagonists, my preferences have a solid foundation (which I’ll explore further in another post). I’ve always wanted to attain the self-actualization that Jane achieves at the end of the novel, and one particular quotation is helping push me in that direction:

“The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” -Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Alright, so…it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But those are the best twenty-five syllables of my life.

A first read of this quotation sounds rather bleak. But it really isn’t––it’s a woman proclaiming that she can be alone, with neither peas-in-a-pod friendships nor assurances of her worth from other people, and still have value because she sees herself as valuable. Her self-opinion became the only thing that mattered, self-respect more important than optics or popularity.

Whereas in years past I have felt empty and lonely, I’ve spent this summer learning to prioritize myself. I don’t feel the need to be constantly validated by others––a need that had only been growing more dire during my tumultuous spring––and that has been more liberating than just about anything. For the first time in a long time, I feel entirely self-contained. I’m learning to stop relying on other people, and it’s already a rewarding fight.

(Then again, I might find just about anything rewarding if it involved Jane Eyre.)

Ciao for now,
Mikki

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