The first episode of Buffy I watched was "Amends." I was with two of my favorite people in the world - the only people who in opening their home to me, gave me one solid reason to be grateful that my previous one fell apart.
For the past six years, I have suffered from a depression so crippling it made "just living" feel like a sysiphean task. Camus says, "We must picture Sysiphus happy," because that's the only hope for us to be. I found my cure in my new home of New Orleans, once I managed to realize that the source of my depression was not bad, unbreakable karma, but rather PTSD from my childhood. My depression quickly transformed into corporal form, and I was able to drive a stake through its steely heart.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and yet we all talk about it like its a show on air. Several Netflix binges later than my first viewing, I can say that Buffy was my main solace during my dark times. Having it on, even in the background, silenced my uncontrollable mind. I remember feeling trapped in my island of a bed, watching Season 7 on my phone, propped on the headboard, or a few years later, having it on when I was packing to leave New York - something I didn't yet know would be right.
The thing I love about Buffy, is that it is not just about the growth of Buffy Anne Summers, but about the growth of the extraordinary with whom she is surrounded. They all struggle with various mental health crises, addictions and breakdowns, showing that vulnerability is both necessary and okay. We can all spend our lives hoping to replicate the tight knit bonds of the Scooby Gang. And we can all rejoice when we find people as strong, loyal and irreplaceable.
Recently, when I've been watching, I've been realizing that the show is all about Willow, the sultry brainiac with a heart as strong as her mind. Throughout the series, Willow and Buffy go through periods of not speaking, viciously fighting and incredible tragedy - still remaining best friends. Things aren't always easy for Willow. Her inherently trusting nature gives Oz the perfect opportunity to betray her. Her addiction to magic nearly claims her life. And yet, even in the crippling times, her powers manage to grow and grow. Willow is the only one humble and selfless enough to be worthy of such amazing powers. And the image of Buffy and Willow sitting cross-legged on the bed, drawing from each others' strength to heal will always be engraved in my mind. I have a friend like Willow - someone who is braver and stronger than I will ever be - someone who not only inspires me to be the best version of myself but believes that I can be - someone so forgiving she makes the word seem obsolete. This girl is a magical powerhouse and yet she'd be the first one to tell you she's ordinary even though she is anything but.
The character of Xander is way more than comic relief, though we all know he does that quite well. I always say that he's a better friend than Buffy deserves. And there are many reasons why. First off, Xander is the only person intuitive and self-confident enough to consistently challenge someone as stubborn as Buffy. Buffy so frequently gets isolated in her own head and Xander is always there to remind her that her actions, though she may be the chosen one, affect others just as gravely. Xander is in so many ways my favorite character. He's refreshingly simple in his humor, but the only one who truly understands the complexity of every situation. Buffy loses herself countless times throughout the show and Xander is always there to see through her and understand her. And of course, there's the fact that he's the only one on the show with an impressive career. Perhaps he seems like he's twirling effortlessly from success to success, only because success is the least interesting thing about him. We all need a friend like Xander, but they are almost impossible to come by. In the heights of my depression, I needed a friend like Xander to remind me that this depression didn't define me. I needed a friend who was so much of an individual that he made conventional seem like a crime. And mostly, I needed a friend to remind me of my passions and my identity as an intellectual - who reminded me of the things I loved before depression and encouraged me to do them. I needed a friend wise enough to tell me that I don't need to engage with the negative feelings that flood through my brain just because they're there. A friend like Xander is so incredible, you could argue he doesn't exist outside the realm of TV. But for me, he does. And I would have been irreparable long ago if it wasn't for him.
I'm lucky to have someone in my life who I would love and protect as much as Buffy does so for Dawn. But I'm also lucky that the same person is strong for me when I can't be, just like Dawn is for Buffy. Because seriously, how many pre-teens can come up to you, tell you they know you're being abused, and say in so few words that they have your back? My little Dawn makes the word extraordinary seem common place because she's so wise beyond her years.
And maybe I don't love you more than I will ever love anything in this life, but still, when I saw that Buffy and Angel weren't headed for a fairytale ending, that gave me permission to lose you.
And most people on Twitter are saying that they wish they had Buffy in their lives to make the evil go away. Well, I see pieces of her in most of the amazing women I know. But also, I do have a real life Buffy in my life. She's beautifully blonde (though I did love the red) and has superhero strength both physically and emotionally. Ever since she came into my life, she's helped me and showed me how to battle my demons and the demons of others. And she gets down and hurt and vulnerable just like Buffy, but she always gets up to fight for more. A strength like that is unparalleled. And yet she has it.
A show is good when it makes you see your world in new ways every time you watch it. And a show is also good when it's so relatable that elements of the characters can be found in those you know. The ending of Buffy strikes some as anticlimactic, but I disagree. Ever since I found resolution to my struggles, I have been asking myself what's next. And every time I do, I have no answer but a smile.