The End of Glee: Part Two

When I started kindergarten, I had just about the coolest backpack on earth. It was pink and purple and it said “Dreams Do Come True.” It even had a matching coin purse with the same saying. Perfect message for a five year old, right? Dream big and believe that it’ll happen.

So, I think we can all agree that the Glee series finale, entitled “Dreams Come True,” was named for me. And, frankly, made for me. This finale was exactly what I needed. There’s never a good way to bring certain things to an end, but this episode left me with no regrets. Many television shows do their best to use their ending to wrap up the story, but Glee didn’t do that. Glee realized that it was more than a show, that it was a part of peoples’ lives. So it ended its plot early, and it used the last episode to say goodbye. And, like Glee always does, it taught us some lessons along the way.

Mercedes’ Song: How To Say Goodbye

“I want to walk out of here like I’m seeing everybody in Glee Club tomorrow and like it’s not really goodbye.”

Mercedes Jones, the only person in the world who cares about being classy while saying goodbye. She invites her friends to the auditorium but cautions them not to come close to her for fear of crying. She has something to say, and then she’s going to leave with class. She sings one of the most classy, glorious, and- in a way- content songs ever: Diana Ross’s “Someday We’ll Be Together.” Once she sings her song, she’s silent. She doesn’t say a thing because she left it all on the stage, and there is no perfect way to say goodbye. She simply looks at her friends, blows them a kiss, and walks away. The moment is beautiful and it sends the message loud and clear that there’s no perfect thing to say at the end; sometimes at the end all we can do is be human. Share a look, and understand that all of your feelings can’t be put into words, but that that’s okay. And then you move on gracefully, hoping that someday you’ll again be together.

Rachel’s Song: How To Look Back

“I’m not afraid of moving on or letting go. It’s just so hard to say goodbye to what I know…This time no one’s gonna say goodbye. I keep you in this heart of mine. This time that we had I will hold forever…No matter who or what I am I’ll carry where we all began.”

This song is special, but even moreso once you know the story behind it. Rachel, the star of the show, needed to leave with a bang, and Lea Michele and Ryan Murphy could not come up with a song to fit the moment. Darren Criss stepped in to write this song specifically for Lea Michele’s voice, encapsulating perfectly and exactly the feelings of the actors, their characters, and the fans. This song says frankly what we all think of but don’t say enough: we know that we have to let go, but it’s just hard. It’s hard to leave what’s comfortable, and that’s okay. Sometimes it seems like there’s this glorified narrative of leaving everything you know and never looking back, but this song acknowledges the fact that the things that are part of us are part of us for a reason, and they deserve to be remembered. And not only that, but the song pays homage to the fact that this show was a beginning for television, society, these actors, everybody, and that, wherever they go from here, they won’t forget where they came from. Darren couldn’t have put the words more perfectly, and Lea clearly felt it.

Rachel’s Speech: What It Means To Be Special

“I want to dedicate this award to the person who is responsible for getting me on this stage tonight, and that is Mr. Will Schuester. Mr. Schue always taught to my strengths and not my weaknesses, and he cheered the loudest when I soared and he picked me up when I was in a million pieces. He taught me the one great thing that all teachers do…being a part of something special does not make you special. Something is special because you are a part of it….Dreams really do come true.”

Rachel’s often-repeated (by me) line from the series pilot, “Being part of something special makes you special, right?” is a sincere cry for a feeling of belonging and for acknowledgement for being special. Rachel is a young woman who knows that she has something incredible to give, but that’s not enough. She needs what we all need- support and love. But by the time she gives her Tony speech, Rachel has realized that she has something to contribute to a group, too. And not only that, but this speech also sheds light on the things that help us to be successful and to help others most: acknowledging strengths, not weaknesses, and believing in the truth and worthiness of our dreams.

Sue’s Speech: The Importance Of Dreaming

What I finally realize… it takes a lot of bravery to look around you and see the world not as it is but as it should be. A world where the quarterback becomes best friends with the gay kid. And the girl with the big nose ends up on broadway. Glee is about imagining a world like that, and finding the courage to open up your heart and sing about it. That’s what Glee Club is. And for the longest time I thought that was silly, and now I think it’s just about the bravest thing that anyone can do.”

Obviously, I’ve never liked Sue, but this speech is the moment that absolutely gets me. This moment is my end game. Not often in life does everything get summed up, but for me this is it. This is the tribute that Cory Monteith deserved. This is the message of Glee. Of life, I hope. It’s better and braver to go through life with hope and dreams than to be prepared for disappointment. In fact, I’d like to believe that the kind of person who lives on hope and dreams deals better with disappointments as well. But Sue is right. It takes bravery to see the world and any human in it not as what it is, but what it can be. If we take nothing else from this show, let’s always remember this.

The Last Song: Glee

“I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did. With every broken bone I swear I lived.”

Say what you will, but Glee went hard. It used every moment, tackled every lesson. It existed richly and without apology. It got a few broken bones along the way- literally and figuratively. But it lived. It lived, and the world changed because of it.

What more can any of us ask for?


The End of Glee: Part One

Brace yourselves, this is going to be sappy. It deserves to be. This is important.

I’ll say this right away- I know that a lot of people feel like Glee fell off the deep end for the last year or two or three. Those feelings are allowed. But, as I’ve mentioned before, Glee means a lot to me. Because I care about the characters. Because I love music. Because it has changed the course of my life, and the lives of so many others. Because it has changed the world, for the better. But maybe mostly because- and I didn’t realize it until now- Glee is, at its core, about being true to yourself and about finding someone or something that understands you, even when you can’t understand yourself. It’s about feeling something so strongly and intensely and not knowing whether it’s okay or how to express it, and then finding a way not only to come to terms with it yourself but to use it to connect with others through a shared passion. Whether that something is your sexuality, your past, or the fact that nobody around you accepts that you’re a dreamer, there will always be a song that understands you and a home where your feelings are accepted and you are celebrated for being brave enough to have them. That is a world-changing concept, and it deserves to be celebrated.

After six seasons, Glee came to an end with a double episode this past Friday. After a weekend of anxiety, I was finally able to watch the finale today. My thoughts before viewing the episode:

Here I am, in bed on a Sunday, about to watch my last episode of Glee. There’s so much anticipation. I think about how much I used to look forward to new episodes- watching with friends in high school or college, discussing them in depth after. Some season finales stick out more than others. I remember most season 3: I biked to a friend’s empty apartment to watch it on her TV. I sat alone on her floor, nobody to watch with me. I watched Finn break Rachel’s heart, and I rocked back and forth on that floor crying. I’ll never forget that. Every time there was so much hope, so much anticipation for what would happen next. Finn’s smile just after he confesses his love to Rachel in the finale of season 1 is enough to give me hope for the rest of my life. To be so happy just to know that you’re in love, and to tell it, and to be looking ahead to nothing but possibility.

And now here we are for the last time. I’m about to watch the first part of the finale, entitled “2009.” It’s hard to believe that it’s actually going to be over, and I’m going to have to deal with whatever emotions it brings on my own. No more episodes to change my feelings. This is it. Here goes.

Then I watched the episode, which takes a look back at the pilot of the show from a different angle. The episode fills in some story, but all I could think about the entire time was when I would see Finn. Ever since learning the title, I knew that this episode would be a special one, and I anticipated the thrill of seeing fresh footage of Cory Monteith, saved from years ago. To my great disappointment, there was none. However, the episode ended with the same song that the pilot ended with six years ago, even using the same Cory Monteith-centered footage, the song that has defined this show and an era. Don’t Stop Believing.

Glee has performed Don’t Stop Believing many a time. Never once has it been repetitive or out of place; every time has been more meaningful than the last, because of the history and the feelings that this song brings. Maybe I didn’t love this episode as much as I thought I would, but it taught me an important lesson: once something is a part of you, it’s a part of you. It can be the pilot, the finale, Rachel’s season 4 audition (which also happened to be the last scene Lea Michele and Cory Monteith ever appeared in together), or using season 1 again in the show’s finale. It’s never old. Don’t Stop Believing is Glee. Finn and Rachel dancing around in red t-shirts and jeans and converse is Glee. In life things may go a million different directions and you may have tragedy or annoyances or any number of things that change you. But there will always be something that makes you you. And Glee will always help you to celebrate that.

Don’t Stop Believing, Season 4 Episode 19 “Sweet Dreams”

Letting Go

The time is now

So let go

You’re on your own

There’s something waiting for you

There’s something waiting for you

So let go

Of the world you know

There’s something waiting for you

In the great unknown

Jukebox The Ghost

Letting go may be one of the hardest things that humans have to do.

If you ask me, change sucks no matter what. (I remember crying hysterically as a child when I switched from bright red kid-sized hangers to slightly darker red adult-sized ones; change is not my forte.) There are different kinds of change, but I think the kind that hurts the most is letting go. It’s not sudden, it’s not planned, you don’t get to give up control and blame somebody else. Letting go is a conscious decision that you make to allow something that was once so important to you to make its way out of your life.

For example, let’s say you really came into your own in college. It changed you for the better, you weren’t ready to leave, and you didn’t have any control over the fact that you eventually did. After graduation, you could still pretend things were the same by hanging out with the same people, maybe living in the same area, whatever it was that defined college for you. You got your closure- your ceremony, your degree- but you still haven’t let it go. And nobody can make that happen but you.

But why is it so hard to let something go? I think it’s because you don’t know whether you can find anything that will replace it. Usually the reason we hold on to things is because we feel comfortable with them or they mean something special to us, and we don’t know if anything else can give us that same feeling. But at the same time, when the idea of letting go is brought up there’s always a reason. Maybe it’s something you need to grow out of. Maybe it’s someone who doesn’t treat you as well as they used to. Whatever the case, it’s possible to let go instantly but it’s also possible to hold on to whatever it is for an indefinite amount of time.

Take Titanic: “I’ll never let go.” And yes, haters, she does physically let go, but can we remember the Celine Dion lyrics? “Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you. That is how I know you go on… Near, far, wherever you are, you are here in my heart and my heart will go on and on…” Rose never truly lets go of Jack. She has no need. He was her first and truest love, and she keeps him alive inside her, despite the fact that she is able to move on and live her own life after his death.

But not all of us are as strong as Rose Dawson. Not all of us can move on without letting go. Often, not letting go means holding yourself back from what’s next. It’s like the season 4 finale of How I Met Your Mother, in which they all “take the leap.”

Imagine: you’re jumping from one rooftop to another. The rooftop where you started is safe and comfortable and, honestly, you love it. But deep inside you know that you have to let go and move on. So you stand on the ledge, look down at what may quite possibly kill you, and you jump anyway. You take the leap. And for that split second in midair, you don’t know whether you’re going to make it or not. That second feels like an eternity. But, what you don’t realize until you make it to the other side is this: you were flying. You felt scared and uncertain and completely, utterly alone. But what you can’t see until later is that, in fact, you were defying gravity. You flew away from what you left, and when you look back, you realize how insanely proud you are to have made it to the other side.

Letting go of what we know hurts. It’s scary, lonely, painful, and sometimes so hard that it seems impossible. It may take ages to be able to let go, if you ever do at all. And once you do, it may not be a clean jump to the other side. But when you make it, you’ve earned it, and there’s no feeling that compares.


How Glee Taught Me to Grow Up

Sometimes when I’m feeling melancholy I like to watch Glee.

At the end of high school but mostly through college, this show was an inspiration to me. I loved it dearly and, as strange as it seems, the characters and the music got me through some extremely trying times. Sometimes people can’t understand that, but we all have something that touches us and for me this was it. I identified with the character of Rachel, and I absolutely loved Finn. And because I already connect so deeply with music, the pairing of life events with music magnified their meaning for me that much more. For a long time, Glee for me was truly a source of comfort and happiness.

thequarterbackOf course, the show certainly has its difficult moments. In my opinion, some of the most powerful episodes are the ones that deal with something hard: when Sue loses her sister, the only person who brings out her humanity. When Rachel and Finn or Blaine and Kurt break up. And of course, The Quarterback. This episode, the show’s tribute to Cory Monteith three months after his sudden death in July of 2013, is painful to see. But I have watched it many a time, because my mission isn’t to avoid pain; it’s to feel something powerful. And that’s certainly what The Quarterback achieves.

Due to a combination of Cory Monteith’s death and simply getting older, I have become less of a rabid Glee fan than I once was. But there have been a few times this year when I needed something that felt familiar, something that would bring me out of a funk and put the feeling back in me full force. At those times, I turn to a few choice episodes of Glee- from the old days, seasons 2 and 3 when I was in my first years of college.

For each episode I see, I have a memory of the first time I watched it. Today I threw it back to season 2; I remembered watching First Kiss while on the ellipticals in my freshman dorm where everybody else was watching the same thing, and we all gasped at the same moment. Next I watched The Substitute, which I viewed on a Friday with a friend right before band practice. And then I turned to Furt, a personal favorite that I watched the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving with a group of friends, suitcase in tow, before running off to catch my shuttle to the airport to go home.

For me Glee is more than a show. It’s a way to remember and to measure a past life. As I watched today, overcome with emotion at seeing Cory Monteith (ever since his death, I have in some ways avoided his performances), I wondered whether it was time to let Glee go. What was the point of watching something that was supposed to make me feel better, if it only brought up overwhelming sadness? I watched and I saw characters who I knew would later die, and I remembered how different I was years ago when I first saw them and how much I’ve grown up since then.

Certainly the show will never bring me the same pure joy that it once did; I will probably never be able to watch without feeling at least a little bit of grief. Realistically, Glee may not always pick up my mood. Sometimes it may bring me down with memories and thoughts of what could have been. But perhaps that’s just part of getting older- realizing that the good rarely comes without even just a little bit of the bad. Taking in the memories and trying to be happy about them, even if things didn’t turn out well later down the line. In fact, that may even be one of the hardest parts: appreciating what happened in the past without resenting the fact that I may not have it anymore.

So, to answer my own question, I will not stop watching Glee. I will never watch it with the same unadulterated exuberance, and it may not ever make me feel the same way it used to. But it will always represent a dearly special time in my life, and I will always keep with me the lessons that I learned. I’m viewing it now with different eyes, eyes that are older and wiser. Things look a little different through them. Maybe not as bright, maybe a little more clear. Definitely more appreciative of the gifts that we can all get from whatever it is that touches us and brings us peace.

But even though its place in my life is different, what brings me peace is this: I no longer need Glee to make me feel better. I am tougher and stronger and smarter than I was back when I used to fanatically watch it. Now the experience may be less exciting, but Glee shows me how far I’ve come. It doesn’t give me the same feeling that it used to. But when I watch it and think about where I was in life the first time, I can see how many incredible strides I’ve made and how different of a person I have become. Like the characters I love so much, I have grown up. That’s not something that everybody gets to do, as I’m reminded every time I watch The Quarterback. So it may not be easy, and it may come with a bit of confusion or nostalgia, but it is most certainly a beautiful thing.