Happy Esther Day! Today, Friday the third of August 2012, is the third ever Esther Day. Quick background: Esther Earl was a teenager and a big part of the community surrounding the Vlogbrothers, two awesome brothers who make videos about geekiness, books, science, and life. Among other things. Their fans are called Nerdfighters (fighing for nerds, not fighting against them), and I have been a proud Nerdfighter now for about three years. Esther was also one of many many Nerdfighters around the world, but she was by all accounts an especially awesome one. John Green (one half of the Vlogbrothers and someone you might remember from my earlier blog Offensiveness Week Exhibit C) actually met Esther a few times, and she made a few vlogs in her lifetime too, all of which exhibited her brilliant and unique nature
Esther suffered from metastasised papillary thyroid cancer, and after a long struggle she passed away on the twenty-fifth of August 2010. A huge outpouring of grief and condolences appeared from online friends and relative strangers who had enjoyed her work alike, and John began a tradition of Esther Day every 3 August: Esther’s birthday. He had some time ago asked Esther once what kind of thing she would want him and his brother Hank to make videos about this time of year, and she decided to get them to talk about love. Not romantic love, as John noted in his first Esther Day video, but familial love. Nowadays the topic has been widened somewhat to all kinds of love, and it’s traditional for Hank and John to tell each other (over video) that they love each other, something they both find very embarrassing in an endearingly childish way. So today’s blog will be all about love, in honour of Esther Earl.
When I wrote this article’s title, I kind of internally laughed, because I wasn’t sure that I actually had any thoughts on love. I’ve only been around for 17 years, and my experience in the field has been relatively limited when compared to someone who has lived for much longer than I. The attempts I’ve made to find a full definition of love have generally ended up obfuscating the truth further, which is no bloody use. However, I’m now realising that I might never find a definition that I’m fully satisfied with. Even if I live to be a hundred and three, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be any wiser than I am right now. If I know nothing else about it (a serious possibility), I know that love changes and shifts meaning all the time, and that it’s by turns awesome and terrible, and its power is matched by nothing else.
But really, I’m getting off-topic, because Esther wanted us all to talk about family love instead, which is probably not the same. The love described above is unpredictable, and dangerous, and a gamble, and a game. The love of your family isn’t like that- in fact, it’s kind of the opposite. It’s a game you’ve already won. That’s because instead of being based on something changeable and erratic, it’s based on dependability, stability and reliability. At least, that’s what I feel. It’s most perfectly described in a song written by Tim Minchin (from another Offensiveness Week article; you’ll very quickly learn that I only know about eight people) called White Wine in the Sun. It’s an unashamedly sentimental Christmas song about his family, and in the last few verses, he addresses his newborn daughter, assuring her that
wherever you are
and whatever your face,
these are the people
who make you feel safe
in this world
Which I think pretty much gets at the heart of why Esther thought this was important enough to get the Vlogbrothers to talk about it every year. I am, I have semi-recently discovered, quite lucky to like both of my parents, and my step-parents, and my siblings and step-sibling. I like them all a great deal – hell, I’ll say it, I love them – and I like to imagine that they love me back. I used to take this for granted, and just naturally assumed that everyone liked their family no matter what. As it turns out, though, it seems that whilst that’s the case most of the time (because you generally grow up with similar attitudes to the people you’re around the most), it’s not always.
And because of my (now wrong) assumption, I think it’s probably the case that I didn’t appreciate them all quite enough. However, I don’t think I’m alone in this. Due to the typical (if not stereotypical) teenage mindset of “OMG PARENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND ME LOLOL”, I think a lot of us tend to have our perceptions clouded, and we don’t quite appreciate the huge amount of work that parents put into making idiots like us proper people.
So I guess what I’m asking is for you to stop for a second, take a step back, and tell those people that you love them. Unless, of course, you don’t love them, in which case you’re excused because it wouldn’t mean anything, but do at least try and work out if you can love them a little bit, because you might find something. And to all my family, but particularly to my four parents, old and new:
I love you.
(if you are so inclined, you may read more about Esther Earl in John’s blog post about her this year, or at the website of the charity set up in her honour, This Star Won’t Go Out. There are also a number of videos John & Hank made around the time she died, but they make me sad, so I haven’t gone to find them.)