Mak­ing Peace with Jo

Activated - - NEWS - By Anna Per­lini Anna Per­lini is a co­founder of Per un Mondo Migliore, a hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion ac­tive in the Balkans since 1995. 1.­run­mon­

One of my fa­vorite books when I was grow­ing up was Lit­tle Women, by Louisa May Al­cott. The novel fol­lows the lives of four sis­ters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—de­tail­ing their pas­sage from child­hood to wom­an­hood. There were analo­gies with my fam­ily since I also had sis­ters, and the youngest one, born pre­ma­ture, re­minded me a lot of frail and sweet Beth. It took no time for me to iden­tify with Jo and her strong, emo­tional per­son­al­ity, her boy­ish ways, her love for lit­er­a­ture, her ini­tial re­jec­tion of the idea of mar­riage, and so on. She was my se­cret role model.

In Lit­tle Women’s Ital­ian edi­tion, the novel is di­vided into two books, the first one cov­er­ing the four sis­ters’ child­hoods and teen years. When I read the se­quel a few years later, I was ut­terly dis­ap­pointed and al­most dis­gusted. What­ever had hap­pened to my Jo? She ended up ac­tu­ally get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing chil­dren! No way! I tossed the book aside, and that marked the end of my “re­la­tion­ship” with Jo.

Of course, years passed, and I also mar­ried and had chil­dren. Now I even have grand­chil­dren! When I last vis­ited my par­ents, I hap­pened to find that old dusty book in a box in the at­tic, and the old feel­ings of en­tice­ment and dis­ap­point­ment com­bined resur­faced, but I brought it down and reread it for the first time in decades. By the time I got to the last page, I had made peace with Jo and no longer felt be­trayed by her choices. I could see that de­spite the ad­just­ments she had to make to her plans, she had re­mained true to her­self and her ideals, her heart more alive than ever as the years went by.

That made me ponder on the re­al­iza­tion that grow­ing up is not just in­evitable, it’s good. Like some­one said, “Get­ting old is not so bad if you think of the al­ter­na­tive.” Each sea­son of life has unique beauty and orig­i­nal­ity, chal­lenges and re­wards. It’s def­i­nitely pos­si­ble to grow up with­out los­ing your core val­ues and your dreams, in spite of what life might throw at you. Even though you might mo­men­tar­ily lose sight of them, they are there, well kept and ready to come out any­time you are ready.

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