As Valentine’s Day comes around again, I’d like to reflect on the changes I have been through in the past year, but this time in a more thoughtful manner than my previous attempt.
A year ago I wrote to Juliet on a whim. I was passing through Verona for the day and having recently seen the film Letters to Juliet (starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave) I thought it would be a beautiful idea. The content of my letter though, had been sitting, festering in my mind for months and it felt like a relief to pour it all out. I didn’t really expect to get a reply, let alone to win the prize for the most beautiful letter.
My weekend at the festival of love in Verona was a moment in my life that I will never forget. Every girl secretly yearns to be treated like a star and I definitely found my 5 minutes of fame. From interviews with local TV stations to photo shoots with The Sun and Associated Press… I was totally dazzled by the whole experience. The journalists longed for my letter to be the result of a painful break up, a broken heart: it would have made their articles far more exciting i’m sure! But the honest truth is just that I lost my way. Studying philosophy, we were taught to question, again and again. I took it too far. Some people perhaps can live without beliefs and hopes and dreams. I can’t. I stumbled into the dark and it had nothing to do with any man or boy.
In the year that has passed I have fought and cried, loved and… survived. Bit by bit, I clawed back all those pieces of myself that had been chipped away, leaving me floundering.
And now who would believe it, but I have become a Secretary to Juliet, joined that wonderful group of volunteers that reply to each and every letter on behalf of Shakespeare’s heroine. I never realised just how hard it would be. There are letters, like mine, that yearn for some reassurance of love. Those I understand for I have been there, yet being responsible for restoring hope to another human being is pretty scary. Then there are letters that seek advice: should I leave my husband and child? Should I tell him that I love him? Should I move across the world in the name of love…? The list goes on! But I’m not daunted by the questions, I read and re-read them, ponder and mull over the emotions, then throw myself into writing the replies. That’s all I ever can do!
And while I’m sitting at my desk, gazing at the quill and inkwell, I try to figure out what to do with my life. Career plans, graduate studies, jobs… to most people it seems like a scary time. I’m not afraid – I’m eager to get started with this next stage of my life, but i’m not afraid. And the reason for that is that I have found faith again, faith in all that is beautiful in this life, and most especially love.
I walked out of the dark. My letter to Juliet made me turn my face to the sun, and then all the shadows fell behind me.