Hannah Fluker – Rapunzel
If I had a life coach, I would want him to be Sondheim. His musical Into the Woods is chalk full of useful bits of advice, realistic decision making, and life lessons that will never be irrelevant. One of the things I love about the show is the specific and individual teachings tied to each character and as I develop my character, Rapunzel, I learn a lot from her. The most important lesson she has taught me is to not let other people’s words and actions, or even my own negative experiences determine my happiness. Unfortunately I learned this lesson because Rapunzel does the opposite of that.
After Rapunzel finds her Prince and leaves her lonely tower for a grand castle, she cannot escape her past and she allows her horrific experiences to determine her attitude toward her potentially bright future. I see Rapunzel as a deeply tragic character who barely experiences any goodness in her life. She grows up isolated in an emotionally taxing and abusive household, with that environment being her every day “normal.” When she finally escapes her tower, she finds that the world can be equally as unforgiving as her previous home. In Act II, Rapunzel confronts the Witch, the perpetrator of her misery, and says, “Because of the way you treated me, I’ll never, never be happy.” Notice how Rapunzel puts her happiness in someone else’s hands: “Because of the way YOU treated me, I’LL never, never be happy.” Rapunzel allows someone else’s actions, which she cannot control, to govern her own happiness.
Saying that Rapunzel should have just “chosen to be happy” seems harsh, and nearly impossible considering the horrors she experienced, but the alternative would be wallowing in past events in hopes of finding a type of temporary, emotional Band-Aid. It is no easy task to choose happiness, especially when faced with difficult circumstances, but nonetheless, Rapunzel was given a choice to focus on the positives in her life, such as her prince and her children, rather than focusing on the negatives in her life. Rapunzel is the only person that could help Rapunzel. Though she could have confided in her prince and gotten the help she needed, she was truly the only person that could decide to stop focusing on her past and come to terms with her life then and now. We are the same.
We all have things in our lives that can easily take away our happiness if we give our attention and energy to them. These negatives can be little inconveniences during the day or life altering events and grievances. Thankfully, we also have blessings that can create happiness in our life whether it be having a relationship, a home, a hobby, or a simple joy. No matter what stage of life you are in, I challenge everyone to purposefully notice these joys and put them at the forefront of your thinking. This does not mean you are ignoring the “bad stuff” in your life but simply not giving it the power to control you. We all have a choice, though sometimes not an easy one.