Hello there, let me tell you a thing.
My name is Veronika. I turned eighteen today, on August 17th 2013. This means I am, legally, an adult. I don’t feel very different, though. I feel more like I have finally been officially raised to the status in society I have always deserved.
But I am now an adult. I can’t help but look back at how I got here, at what kept me from leaving. There hasn’t been that much time since I was born compared to people celebrating their 50th and 100th birthdays, but I can’t say I haven’t been through and learned a lot since I arrived at this blue planet.
And, as silly as it sounds, I can’t say M*A*S*H hasn’t been a big part of it.
I started watching M*A*S*H in 2008, when I was just about to turn thirteen. That’s five years ago. Five years. I can barely believe it. Since then, this TV show has had an impact on my life in so many ways, directly and indirectly. I am so grateful that I found it, because without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
I had to consciously learn how to use facial expressions and body language in communication with other people. I didn’t have it in me naturally for some reason, even though I could easily pick up on other people’s moods. To learn it, upon realizing I needed to, I observed. My parents weren’t suitable role models in this aspect because of reasons, so I needed to find someone else. So I watched TV shows. Or well, I watched M*A*S*H. I actively observed and learned how to carry myself when the world was watching, and as a byproduct, I soaked up some of the personality of the character I was observing the most – Hawkeye Pierce. I looked at him the most because I could relate to him, having lost people and still trying to do his best, and sometimes failing. His flaws were my flaws and his strengths were my strengths, so it seemed only logical that if I was going to adopt the mannerisms of a character, it would be him. And so, with years of trying and failing and trying again, I finally overcame my social shyness and insecurity.
I believed for a long time that I was alone in the world, that no one could ever understand me. It didn’t seem to me that among billions of people, someone had to be like me. I didn’t believe that, and I felt so incredibly lonely. Then I started to watch M*A*S*H, and as I grew more attached to the characters I became interested in knowing who played them so well. Doing my overall research on various people, I found one that stood out to me. One that, when he expressed an opinion, would say exactly what I would have wanted to say. One that, when he reasoned, did it in a way that made me feel like I had finally found a member of my long-lost people. One that maybe, just maybe, could understand me. His name was Alan Alda.
I was a confused child caught in the midst of the emotional storms of being a teenager, feeling different and misunderstood and all that. I felt stupid and inadequate and carried such a heavy guilt that when it lifted not long ago, I could physically feel it. I have experienced a wide spectrum of feelings in my life and I’m telling you, guilt is by far the worst. Guilt cripples you in situations not remotely related to the source from which you draw the guilt. It infects everything like a nasty virus. Makes you repeatedly slam your head into walls. Because of this, for years, none of my friends really knew me. Because I wouldn’t say things. Because I thought I was unwanted. Different. Stupid. Oh, I felt so stupid.
It’s a long story on its own, so let’s just say that this person ended up helping me very much and inspiring me to no ends with his kindness and wisdom. Knowing he exists still gives me hope every day that there are more people out there like him, hope that I can find them, and hope that I can be like that. He’s not a deity, not an angel, not a guru – just another human being whose name happens to be known by people he has never met. He’s just a person, with talents and flaws and silly, meaningless little quirks just like the rest of us. Just like me. I was in such great need for a role model in my life at that time and I got it, I got more than I ever thought. I wrote him, and he wrote back. I learned that reaching out for help is always worth trying. I wrote again much later just to say thanks, and he wrote back once more. I learned that speaking your mind is a risk you should take.
Except for world peace and all that, I want nothing more than to meet him, to sit down or take a walk and just speak with him. I cannot with words express how much that would mean to me – not because I’m a fan or because I think it would be cool because he’s a celebrity, but because I am so incredibly and incomprehensibly grateful that he is who he is. Without the kindness of a man who touched my heart without ever even meeting my eyes, I don’t know where I would be today.
M*A*S*H has taught me about suffering and loss, about pain and feeling like you can’t go on – that all these things are human experiences and that it’s okay to feel them. M*A*S*H has taught me about friendship and love, about loyalty and healthy compromise – that these things, too, are human, and that some of them are inevitable. I remember back when I lost my Trapper (no note, no nothing) and wondered when my BJ would come around. I remember not believing it would ever happen. And then, somehow, I now have a friend with whom I eat chips using our feet, a friend with whom I can share even my deepest, darkest secrets. It just happened. Things just happen in life and whether it has a meaning or not I think is up to us to decide. To me, it definitely has meaning – it means there’s hope. For all of us. For everything.
We don’t change overnight. I didn’t. The world won’t. It’s more like waking up one morning and as you’re eating breakfast you start to notice that something feels different – better; more like you want it to be – and then that feeling just never leaves.
Thanks to M*A*S*H (directly and indirectly) I have, over time, been able to overcome my social shyness, forgive my father, get a sense of who I am, started writing songs and poems, playing the ukulele, started drawing humans more and improved in that aspect, dared to show my art to the world and thus found some of my best friends, become inspired to start writing the novel I’m currently working on, and so on and so on. M*A*S*H was the water that gave me the opportunity to bloom, even if it took time. Of course I still feel sad, doubtful and hopeless occasionally, but now I know that it’s okay to feel like that. The same things always lift me up again, and on I go. I may not be bullet proof, but I can always patch myself up. And that’s a good thing when you’re about to set out into the big, scary, wonderful world.
I had a dry martini today to celebrate this – a stupid, symbolic little thing to make me happy. Don’t underestimate stupid, symbolic little things that make you happy.
So yeah, this has been me drunkenly talking (well, writing) about how a TV show, fictional characters and an amazing person continue to inspire me every day. If I can give to someone even a fraction of what above mentioned parties have given me, my life will have been good.