I can still remember being a little kid and being introduced to the fantasy genre, almost simultaneously through video games and books. I remember picking up my first truly influential book, Warrior’s Heart, and being so excited by the magical promises it held inside. I remember bringing it to school to show my best friend, and I remember her saying with a crinkled nose that the cover was funny. I didn’t understand–it was a gorgeous cover, with a picture of a teary-eyed, red-haired, sword-bearing warrior who captured my heart and made me wish she was real–but it made me self-conscious. “It is pretty funny,” I agreed reluctantly, but I told her defensively that it was still a good book on the inside. She didn’t really buy it.
It stayed like that for a long time. I fell deeper and deeper in love with magic and adventure, and every time I showed her one of the things that I absolutely adored, she turned up her nose and told me she wasn’t into that kind of thing. I could tell she thought it was weird.
We aren’t friends anymore (the funny thing is that I can remember myself playing Guild Wars when she told me through the internet that she didn’t want to hang out anymore) but I don’t think badly of her. We had different interests, and it was probably good that we went our separate ways. I now have a fantastic group of friends who share my interests and embrace them (and play Dungeons & Dragons with me and actually like it). We’re both quite happy, my former friend and I, and I’m so thankful I never put Warrior’s Heart down just because the cover looked funny.
If I had, I’d never have met Catriona Goodlund.
When I was a little girl just new to the fantasy world, I wanted desperately to be a warrior. It’s always been in my soul, a desire to pick up a sword and be strong and fearless. It’s such a deep part of who I am. But as a little girl, well, it’s hard to fit those big warrior shoes. I mean, I was pretty far from strong, and I was really afraid of spiders and swimming lessons (bad, bad memories of the front crawl…. I shudder just to think of it), so I wasn’t exactly fitting my own criteria. Not to mention the fact that I had no access whatsoever to a sword.
All of that, plus the fact that I didn’t like to tell anybody about my dreams. I only ever remember telling two people–my former friend and another best friend who was actually very interested in fantasy, but who lived in another city. Around everyone else except family, I kept pretty quiet. I still usually do, because I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t understand. Specifically, many girls I meet. I remember not that long ago mentioning Guild Wars 2 to a girl in my class. When she asked what that was, I said that it was kind of like World of Warcraft. The look on her face told me everything. She thought it was kind of funny. She thought I was weird.
I realized, as a little girl and now, that girls were supposed to like malls, boy bands, and books about friendship and drama. I was very much exposed to that whilst growing up, and didn’t realize when I was little that it’s actually okay to break those expectations. When I was little, I felt kind of funny because of what I liked.
Thank the heavens for Catriona.
She didn’t exactly meet the expectations either. She had been kicked from the knighthood when she’d been too afraid to stop her aunt from being killed. She fought every day with that guilt and fear looming over her, feeling so often that she’d failed her friends and let them down. Her hands shook when she wielded her sword. Her heart pounded in her chest. She was afraid. And she knew that she didn’t belong with the rest of the world. She’d lost her honour and her respect, and she felt like she was a little funny.
Little girls weren’t supposed to be fearless. They weren’t supposed to dream of fighting battles instead of hanging out with friends. They weren’t supposed to want to be strong. But I’ve been happy all my life. My dreams have filled my soul.
Warriors weren’t supposed to be afraid. They weren’t supposed to fail their friends. They weren’t supposed to be weak. But Catriona is the best female warrior I’ve ever come across. If I could be a warrior, I would want to be like her.
I would want my hands to shake when I held my sword, because truthfully I’m not that fearless.
I would want my heart to pound when faced with danger, because truthfully I’m not that terribly strong.
I would want to be the odd one out, the funny picture on the cover, because in all the years I’ve been in love with fantasy, I’ve realized that breaking the expectations is the only way I could imagine living my life.
What expectations do you love to break?
May you let yourself be a little bit funny, and never fear walking a different path.