Jo March of Louisa May Alcott’s distinguished bestseller Little Women (now a spectacular film!) is a colorful combination of a dreamer, writer, innovator, and tomboyish geek. She is boisterous, outspoken, clumsy, and bad-tempered, the antithesis of the exemplary 19th century woman. I see myself in Jo: I put the poised, imperturbable demeanor of my family to shame and I have yet to settle a disagreement without a thunderous remark of some sort. It sounds like Jo is a terrible influence.
Yet, the reason I continue to idealize this humorous outlier of a young woman is that each time I re-read a chapter or two of the classic novel, I obtain a heightened understanding of the value of her character. Jo is a visionary, charged with extravagant ambitions and imaginative ideas. Initially, her sisters laugh at her seemingly quixotic aspirations, but crazy Jo is the only one of the March sisters to secure a decently well-paying, upscale job – which also happens to be her dream profession. How? She made use of what few resources she had.
While sitting at home with nothing but boredom to quell, we forget that the most creative and fulfilling solutions lie right around us. On a typical pre-virus weekday, most of us would struggle to finish our essays on time or to juggle work calls and dinner responsibilities. Many of us, myself included, constantly yearned for more time to indulge in sweeter temptations – temptations like watercolor painting or basketball on the driveway, or like thirty minutes on the piano to experiment with the sheet music that was printed out weeks ago.
While her sisters sewed dresses and braided hair, Jo sat by the fireplace and read. While confined to the walls of her home as the snow fell outside, Jo wrote, scribbling fairytales in her little notebook. Jo did not feel obliged to please anyone but herself. She worked on herself and for herself. While we have nothing but time on our hands, we can be the Jo Marches of our time. If you find interest in sewing dresses or learning how to braid hair, DO IT. If you have ached for the hours to sit by a window with a splendid view and write a fairytale, DO IT. If you want to run, sketch, dance, bake, calculate… DO IT. The time, as always, is finite. Before we know it, our time will slip like the setting sun, and we will reflect upon our dusky ignorance with one feeling: Regret.
A number of us believe that in order to optimize our time, we must achieve the unthinkable. We punish ourselves for the littler feats and feel compelled to become Einsteins overnight. But you don’t have to cure cancer. You just have to do YOU.
Read a book. Learn to play an instrument. Decorate your workspace. Do SOMETHING, because once this time passes, your opportunity will dissipate into NOTHING.
Little Women demonstrates the importance of discovering a passion and sticking to it. In fact, not only Jo, but all of the March sisters found solace in their respective fields and engrossed themselves in them completely – Amy in her artistic endeavors, Beth in her gentle piano tunes, and Meg in her duties as a housewife. Each young woman found where her heart truly lied and dedicated herself to it entirely. Thus, the optimal solution to our restlessness is not embarking on an impractical hunt for an antibody to eradicate a virus or seeking out every possible internship to drown a college application with.
The solution is to embrace your passion. Embrace your inventiveness, your recklessness, or your frankness, and turn them into something revolutionary.
Jo didn’t reach New York by embracing the ideal 19th century woman. She embraced the unconventional. She embraced her ideal, her best self. Our Jo took her time and did what would do good for HER. Take your time and do what will do good for YOU. Don’t do it for your teachers or coworkers or parents; do it for the Jo March in you, the one with big dreams and big ideas. Do it to surprise yourself. Do it to better yourself. Do it for you! #coronavirus #doitforyou
Ishita Shah is an aspiring writer residing in Texas. When not researching, she can often be found baking with her family of four or listening to Christmas music (all year round). You can see more of her on Instagram at @_ishitashah_.
Image courtesy of Yuri Efremov.