From Damsel to Heroine: My Story (or Why I Do What I Do)

Jan 18, 2012 by

From Damsel to Heroine: My Story (or Why I Do What I Do)

We all have stories: ones we choose, ones we discard, ones we change, ones we create. This is mine.

Once upon a time, there was a damsel who dreamed. Big dreams, little dreams, in between dreams; real dreams, true dreams, fantastical dreams: she had them all. But she didn’t know how to make those dreams come true, and as she tried first one thing, then another, slowly she felt hope dwindling inside of her, convincing her she was silly for dreaming. She started listening to all those things that everyone around her said about being sensible and responsible.

She went to law school.

It was all right. She loved to learn and loved to debate things, and school was always something at which she had excelled. She told herself she could follow her dreams in her spare time, but it was hard to find the time to spare.

After school, it was even worse. Brick by brick, a tower had grown up around her. It seemed like she was surrounded by dragons and trolls, and even an evil queen or two, all determined to trap her. Colors faded into dull browns. She gave away the flowing skirts and beads. Instead, she locked herself up behind pinstripe bars.

Every day was dull and gray, and she barely remembered what it felt like to dream, but she knew that someday, somehow, her prince would come to save her.

He didn’t. But in his place came a bard with magic in her songs. Music gave way to lyrics which evolved into words. The bard revealed with a peek under her patchwork cloak, the raiment of a wise woman. The damsel cheered, and thought she had come to save her.

The wise woman just smiled. She had a better gift to give, if the damsel would receive it, if she would just take her hand. Ready to grab at any chance, no matter what, the damsel did.

The wise woman didn’t save the damsel: she taught her to save herself.

The damsel stopped looking for a hero, and became a heroine. Brick by brick, she learned to take the tower down. Color seeped into her world in fits and starts through the chinks in the walls, until one day a rainbow flooded. She tossed out the pinstripes and silver and gold shackles. She wore a red ruffled jacket with her suit.

Then she tossed out the suits.

The dragons and trolls and evil queens, she discovered, were all locked in the tower with her, souls on a journey unlike her own. She stopped caring what they said to her, and thought of her, as she started to dream again. She wrote stories down and told people about them. She found a stage and trod upon it.

She bought a red sofa. (There’s another story there)

She stopped thinking of the dragons, trolls and evil queens as her jailors.

She climbed out of the tower.

The road was a little scary, out there with every possibility before her, but always just ahead, she saw the wise woman-bard and she listened to her song, and the songs of others she met on the road, and step by step, she moved forward, walking with more confidence, dreaming again, open to every possibility she had been blind to for years. Stitch by stitch, she made her own bard’s cloak.

She took a path to a place of learning that celebrated the bard’s craft, and became both student and teacher inside of it. She discovered young bards-to-be and mentored them in wordsmith and meaning-making.

Then, one day, she found herself in a field she had discovered off the beaten path. She could see her footsteps behind her, and she could see the wild world stretching out before her. And she could see a tower, with a damsel like she once was trapped inside, all her dreams forgotten.

The damsel called down to ask the heroine if she could save her. She’d do anything.

The heroine smiled, flipped back her cloak to find the raiment of a wise woman underneath. She told the damsel she had a better gift to give.

She held out her hand, and the damsel took it. The heroine didn’t save the damsel: she taught the damsel how to save herself.

[Photo credit: Lani Harmon Photography]

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