feels, personal

Life Lessons from Glee

March 20, 2015

orphan survival guide - social media - life lessons from glee

I’m a grown woman. I have responsibilities, I know how to prioritize fun stuff and being an adult. I take things really seriously and for the most part I think people take me seriously.

But I am devastated that tonight is the end of Glee–even moreso that I’m missing it because of my job.

Orphan Survival Guide - Goodbye Glee

Most people gave up on Glee before I gave in to it, and so this probably seems absurd. But I found Glee at exactly the right time in my life when I needed it.

I fought it for three seasons (I was convinced it was awful because by then, everyone said it was awful) but one choice fanfic led me into a spiral that I can’t take back, for better or for worse.

And I’m glad for it. Glee has given me so much.

Orphan Survival Guide - Farewell Glee

1. Own Your Ambition

I found Glee when I was starting therapy and a really unhappy middle management job that I thought was the best I could do.

Glee was, and still is, my refuge from the stress of being an adult doing everything on my own.

It tackles grief and solitude a lot, in ways that are obvious given its after-school-special nature sometimes, but mostly it’s a story about resilience and drive.

The greatest life lesson I’ve gotten from Glee is that it gave me permission to be ambitious in a world that tells me to sit down and be quiet. And that’s so powerful.

It’s more than just a go-after-your-dreams story. It’s about never backing down, never apologizing or compromising. It’s a story about surviving and cheating the system.

It taught me how to balance my need to be liked with my drive to be better.

It helped me hone the act of faking it, not just until you make it but until you can convince yourself that you deserve it.

Side note: Glee also introduced me to the most terrifyingly relatable stories I’ve ever read, Chris Colfer’s YA novel-slash-indie film Struck By Lightning. It turns ruthless ambition up to eleven and throws likable protagonists out the window. The fear of dying without accomplishing what I have worked so hard for is what pushed me to go to college and start making concrete plans for the future.

2. Demand Recognition

Hand in hand with ambition, Glee taught me that I can command the attention and acknowledgement of others. That I deserve it.

Pop psych articles written by boomers love to lament the narcissistic selfie culture of millenials because we’re not afraid to force you to notice us and give us the attention we know we deserve.

Glee made that okay for me. It taught me to never apologize or back down when you really want something–because if you put the work in, then you damn well deserve that attention.

3. Screw Expectations

Everyone has an opinion about how awful and inconsistent and soapy and preachy and offensive Glee is.

Glee knows that.

Glee is not afraid to confront those expectations just for the hell of it, to say, “Yeah, I heard what you said about me.” And sometimes it turns into a beautiful slap in the face as Glee does the opposite of what people say about it.

Or it does exactly that thing that you hate, just to piss you off. Joke’s on you, haters–you thought that storyline was ridiculous? Just wait.

Orphan Survival Guide - Goodbye Glee

For a while I was happy if I enjoyed 15% of an episode. But then I grew to appreciate the things that people hate about Glee because I knew that those things were deliberate choices, often because the writers knew people would hate them.

A few weeks before my high school graduation, one of my middle school teachers told me that she was surprised I’d made it that far–that everyone had expected me to get pregnant and drop out and maybe go to community college one day.

I wasn’t allowed to read romance novels or watch racy movies like The Notebook for fear it would turn me into some kind of sex-crazed maniac–or maybe because it would lead me down that path of a pregnant dropout, who knows.

But I turned those expectations on their heads. I graduated. I got out of the hellhole where I grew up. I dropped out of college, but I went back.

Defying people’s expectations is a pretty common life lesson we see paraded around motivational posters and inspirational quotes–but more than just defying those expectations, Glee helped me learn how to confront them.

I’m taking steps to make the life I want for myself. And if that means being the slutty pornographer people assumed I would turn out to be, well… that’s just a bonus.

4. Express Emotions

Glee does this thing where a lot of characterization is revealed in a single line of dialogue, and whatever happened is never addressed again.

A lot of people think this is poor writing, I think it’s giving you the opportunity to connect the dots yourself–if you want to. Glee doesn’t tell you what to think or feel, it lets you do those things yourself.

It’s also the ideal setup for speculative fanfic.

Since I started watching it when I was in therapy, it came at a time when I was learning how to acknowledge and verbalize a lot of difficult feelings. At the time I was reading roughly 500 pages of fanfic a day, pretty much only leaving my bed to go to work or therapy. I read hundreds (if not thousands) of Glee fics, and so many stories were painful to read because of how raw and deep the emotions were.

Glee made me more introspective and conscious of my emotions than three years of cognitive therapy ever did.

Orphan Survival Guide - Goodbye Glee

And it made me realize that it’s okay that I’m screwed up. I can still accomplish a lot and feel like a success and still get the things I want, even though I have a lot of work to do.

While most people were groaning at the over-the-top double gay wedding on Glee a couple weeks ago, I was crying over “I’m a work in progress.”

Glee shines a light on those little moments that are full of big emotions, in ways that a lot of media just… doesn’t. And I appreciate and need that so much.

5. Be Critical of the Things You Love

I mean it when I say that Glee fandom is wicked smart. Gleeks–with their CSI-like eye for tiny set design continuities and knowledge of obscure 50s queer trivia and character analysis PhDs–were a major force in my decision to go back to school.

I’m not that smart. I went to school in Florida. I’ve been lucky, and I’ve made smart choices. But Glee made me want to be better, to learn how to begin making a post like this.

With previous fandoms, I just soaked up the fun and made friends. But with Glee , I learned how to be critically engaged with something I loved, even when it wasn’t perfect.

Glee is not perfect. It tries to be a lot of things–and fails at a lot of them, depending on who’s watching–but it was still groundbreaking in a lot of ways. It started things, and left it up to us to finish them.

It’s not the greatest work of art I’ll ever engage with. But it’s a beginning. And I’m so grateful for the conversations and decisions it started in both my own life and in television.

Thank you, Glee.

I’m not ready to see you go. I don’t know what will replace you.

Orphan Survival Guide - Goodbye Glee


10 Favorite Klaine Fics

This is not a fandom blog, so I’m not going to make this a separate post. There are a lot of things I could say about women reading slashfic, specifically Klaine fic, but that’s something for a different blog.

Fanfic is something I turn to when I’m depressed, whether I need something to cry over or if I just need something to make me smile. I’d read tons of fanfic in the past, but Klaine was the first fandom that felt right. “Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you forever.”

Here are the 10 Klaine-centric fics that I compulsively read when I need to feel feelings. I hope you like them too.

  1. The one that started everything: Little Numbers
  2. The one that matters most: All The Other Ghosts + Grey
  3. The one about intimacy: In The World of Silence
  4. The one about polyamory: Fidelity
  5. The one about the ’90s: Like a Toaster
  6. The one about family: Angel in a Red Vest
  7. The one about college: Near Misses
  8. The one about growing up: Unscripted ‘verse
  9. The one about religion: Singing the Journey
  10. The one about amnesia: Everyday

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