On Bravery and Buffy and the Vampire Slayer

by ethankilgore

If you know me at all you understand the vast undying love that I have for television. What you might not know is that television just might have saved my life.

When I was seventeen I was in the midst of one of my worst periods of depression. I had graduated High School in three years which left me a year in-between school and college. I didn’t go anywhere, I cut off all contact with my friends, and I seemed to sleep more hours than I was awake. I was also struggling with whether or not I was ever going to tell anyone that I was gay.  To be completely blunt – I was barely holding on to life and I wanted to let go.  Depression was a hot coal in my stomach. It was an all consuming problem, and one day it was going to burn something vital. It just so happens that around this time I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It quickly became one of my favorite shows of all time, and it relieved the pain I was feeling, if at least for 45 minutes at a time.

So how does a strong, independent, female protagonist fit into my fight with depression? Well the Season 5 finale, The Gift, is an episode that I regard as one of the best episodes of television ever written. In the final minutes of what was supposed to be the series finale, Buffy utters the most unforgettable lines I have ever heard on the small screen.

“You have to be strong [...] the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”

It might not be as powerful reading it on a blog, but at the time I broke down weeping. Not because the show was sad, not because Buffy was going to sacrifice herself to save her sister, but because a television character put into words what I needed to hear for so long. “The hardest thing in this world is to live int it. Be brave. Live.”

Television helped me to start feeling again.

Television helped me to start feeling again.

Wait….what? You mean that the simple act of breathing in and out can be brave? Absolutely. You see, when it comes down to it we are the ones who get up day-after-day and choose to face the harshness of reality. While it sounds dramatic, choosing to live is often a brave act in itself. No one ever said that it was going to be an easy thing – living. During a time when I didn’t even want to be alive, this message that Buffy delivered  was clear and powerful.

You see, bravery is subjective and every person’s circumstances are unique. Bravery is seen in the police officers who protect us every day. Bravery is the mother or father who raises their children by themselves. Bravery is the little kid on the playground who overcomes her fear of the monkey bars. Bravery is the act of persevering, overcoming, and surviving.

While one action might be brave for someone, the entirely opposite action might be the brave route for someone else. For example, for some people the act of coming out as gay is a brave act – it takes guts, strength, and a whole lot of support. However, it can be just as brave to decide that it is not the right time to come out yet. There are kids who are in situations that only harm would come to them if they were to reveal their sexual identity, and  as horribly sad as it is, the decision to keep their sexuality under wraps for their own wellbeing is also an act of bravery itself, and one that should be respected.

An act that will put you in grave danger now in Russia, and quite a few other areas unfortunately.

An act that will put you in grave danger now in Russia, and quite a few other areas unfortunately.

There are thousands of LGBT in Russia right now who have to keep their homosexuality a secret for fear of being beaten, arrested, tortured, or even killed. To suffer in silence for their own safety is a tragedy, but how can you deny the bravery of those who preserver in the face of such great danger for just being themselves? When it comes down to it – only you know what is best for your own being.

Let me charge you with this: be brave – however that may look for yourself. And try to recognize the bravery of others, as it might not be in the form you expect it to be. We all will stumble – it is the act of picking ourselves up that is what we should focus on – the little victories.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9