I got my first tattoo yesterday.
It says ‘just last the year’, a line from the Bon Iver song Skinny Love. That song really saved my life, and it was really all I listened to in grade 11 when my eating disorder was really bad, so that song always has a special place in my heart. I got it this month kind of in celebration of me being self-harm free for a full year. It’s also been two years since I was diagnosed with my anorexia, and since I began treatment and started on my road to recovery. It’s been a long and hard road and it’s had a lot of ups and downs and I’ve struggled a lot. But I am so happy to say that I’ve made it this far, and even though I have a long way to go still I am proud of how far I have come. I’m looking forward to many more years to last through.
When you go into the ER, one of the first things they ask you to do is to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, and from there they decide which drugs to use and how quickly to use them. I’d been asked this question hundreds of times over the years, and I remember once early on when I couldn’t get my breath and it felt like my chest was on fire, flames licking the inside of my ribs fighting for a way to burn out of my body, my parents took me to the ER. A nurse asked me about pain, and I couldn’t even speak, so I held up nine fingers.
Later, after they’d given me something, the nurse came in and she was kind of stroking my hand while she took my blood pressure and she said, “You know how I know you’re a fighter? You called a ten a nine.”
But that wasn’t quite right. I called it a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks and pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned
I walked down the hall and saw that [she] was sitting on the floor next to a chair. This is always a bad sign. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s best just to sit in chairs, to eat when hungry, to sleep and rise and work. But we have all been there. Chairs are for people, and you’re not sure if you are one.
So this little cigarette right here has sparked a whole new brand of TFiOS hate, much of which is coming from people who claimed to love the book.
Many people are now pointing out how “pretentious” Augustus is, and I can’t help but think, You’re only just now realizing this. He was written to be a seemingly pretentious and arrogant person. The acknowledgement of this is actually highly important because, without it, the book loses the message that a hero’s journey is that of strength to weakness.
Augustus Waters has big dreams for himself. He wants to be known and remembered; he wants to be a hero; he wants to be seen as perfect. But there’s already something standing in his way… He has a disability, and society tells him that a person cannot be both perfect and disabled. So what does he do? He creates a persona for himself. He tries to appear older and wiser than he is. But the pretentious side of him is NOT who he truly is. It’s all an act. (This is evident in the fact that he often uses words in the wrong context.)
And when his cancer returns, we begin to see his mask cracking. The true Augustus begins to bleed through… Hazel even takes notice of this from time to time. And by the time we get to the gas station scene, Augustus is no longer the picture of perfection he was when we met him. The play has been canceled. The actor must reveal himself. And he’s revealed to be a weak, defenseless boy, succumbing to the cancer that is made of him.
THE PRETENTIOUSNESS IS INTENTIONAL. It stands to show Augustus’s journey from flawless to flawed, from strong to weak. It’s the key to understanding that Augustus was the hero he always wanted to be, even if he didn’t realized it.