Participants of my ongoing Saving Cinderella class have the option to a write guest post on the topic of the session they attended. This post is in response to Session 3: A Voice for a Man? Ariel and the Strength to be Your True Self.
To enroll in a future session of the class, click here.
The following was written by Jennifer McDowell.
A couple of summers ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to do the Jersey Girl Triathlon; a local competition at the Jersey shore. Before you are overly impressed, it was a mini-triathlon consisting of a ¼ mile swim, 11 mile bike ride; ending in a 5K. I do not know why all of a sudden I wanted to do this, but I did. Long story short, I didn’t train enough and was gasping for every last breath at the end; but the clearest and most powerful memory for me involved the swim. It was where the race started, and I was in the first group to go. When the whistle blew, I couldn’t help but think of The Little Mermaid—my favorite Disney movie— as we ran into the waves as the early morning sun rose above us.
So…here’s the thing. The funny thing about long distance swims is that you end up swimming much farther out than you would normally go. Much. Farther. Out. As I found myself swimming amidst the waves, going deeper and deeper into the ocean, I suddenly had the chilling realization that I was completely and totally out of my element. I have always loved swimming—always grown up swimming—but when you’re out that far, you start to feel fearful of what you might see through your goggles the next time you dunk your head in the water. You start to think that maybe you just felt something brush your leg and start kicking like hell. You realize the guy who’s supposed to be the “lifeguard” is just a husky man chilling on a pool noodle. You might also suddenly remember that you didn’t pray that day and start saying “Jesus!”during every ragged gasp of air—especially after that thing (or nothing) touched your leg.
Why am I saying all this? Because in that moment, I realized I was in another world. I had no bearings. I had no fins. If a shark came up—game OVER. As humans, that feeling is new. We walk around on land like we own the place—because we do. But in that moment, I was truly humbled; and never was there a more joyful moment then when my foot first touched the sandy ocean floor. I got to wondering, “Ariel must have experienced something like this in reverse.” And then I thought, “Well, that’s quite something!”
One really excellent way I think Ariel is a wonderful role model for young girls is her intrepid spirit. She has that same innate gumption that people born to be astronauts have. A fearlessness to explore—risking life and limb—to see something exciting and new. As you can see…I’m not exactly that way—but Ariel is. Of course, she makes mistakes along the way, but she is someone who yearns for something more—and isn’t afraid to go after it. She’s on a mission to “boldly go where no mermaid has gone before;” and by being brave enough to do so, ends up finding something much more worthwhile than what she is initially looking for—the very best thing—love.
I remember swimming as a kid; looking back at my strawberry blonde hair under the water and trying to make it flip like Ariel’s. I remember crossing my feet and pretending I had a fin like Ariel’s. I remember pretending to save someone from drowning like Ariel does. As I got older, I stopped doing those things. But there’s something that has stayed with me; a way I still try to be like her today. It is—I believe—the bravest thing she does in the entire film. In a world where she’s the oddball; she has the courage to be who she truly is.
Jennifer McDowell is founder and writer-at-large of www.deskofjdogood.com . In the summers, can find her swimming (close to shore) in central New Jersey. You can keep up with Jennifer on Twitter and Instagram as @missjennifermcd.