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.
Of 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.