"We are all broken, that's how the light gets in."
“Without pain, how could we know joy?” - The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
“Behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.” - Not Dark Yet, Bob Dylan
...and all the other quotes about the necessity of pain in order to grow. They’re romantic and poetic. But I don’t think pain is actually necessary; it just helps in a way.
I like the idea of light. I imagine the light that Ernest Hemingway is referring to in the title quote to be a source of warmth, brightness, and weightlessness. It lifts the burden of sadness or loneliness. With light, you don’t need others. You are light and everything you need on your own.
We all know pain: small and big pains that matter to us. No one but ourselves is to judge the magnitude of our own pain. My pain is fearing for my family’s financial status, and in turn, mine and my siblings’ future in education, and my parent’s future living arrangements. Another person’s pain may be fearing for their family’s lives. Both are absolutely valid pains, though one may seem more ‘important’ than the other. But we all know our own pains. We know what it feels like.
When we are vulnerable and experiencing our pains, maybe we’re ‘broken’. (I normally don’t like using that term because being ‘broken’ or depressed has been so romanticized through Tumblr and both classic and modern literature that sometimes we find ourselves wanting to experience such sadness just to be able to say that we have. But we’re going to go along with Hemingway’s title quote.) I don’t think you have to be ‘broken’ for the light to get in. Maybe just lost, confused, or hollow. And when we’re in that state, something or someone shows us “the light”. We are shown ways to “get better” or simply just get back to where we were so we can grow from that point. We’re shown a different way, not a solution but simply an opportunity for progress. We’re shown the light and at some point we succeed and reach the light.
Then the light enters us, and we’re new. We’re filled with the warmth, brightness, and weightlessness that motivates us to be more. We don’t all need to be broken in order to reach the light, or in order for it to enter. I think we all just need to reach the light, wherever our starting points, and actually want the light to enter.
The light enters if we choose for it to do so. It doesn’t work if we’re content to be what we are and where we are, because I believe the light doesn’t leave us the same or in the same place. We have to want it and I think we all have the potential to receive the light.
Alicia is a 20 year old junior at The College of New Jersey, with a major in Psychology and anticipated minor in Women's and Gender Studies. In addition to Her Culture, she is a writer for The Prospect and secretary of TCNJ Barkada (Filipino club). Her interests include wearing black, playing Skyrim, appreciating her identity as Asian/Filipino, and knitting hats for stuffed animals. She values practical education over academic excellence and (as an introvert) the idea of speaking "only if it improves upon the silence" (Gandhi). Her goals include reaching self-actualization, building a successful and stable career, and benching her own body weight (85 lb).
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