Have courage like Arya and sail beyond the sunset (what is west of Westeros?)

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Everyone who has watched Game of Thrones has an opinion, especially if you’ve read the books by George R.R. Martin. I would have loved for the season to have had more time and added depth and logic between the sudden jumps. But I actually liked the finale.

I won’t talk about massive spoilers here, but it’s a post about Arya’s fate – so if you don’t want to know that, stop reading.

Like Arya, I’ve always harboured a desire to head out and explore. To be self-reliant, bold, and my own definition of whoever I want to be.

Arya in the finale, image by HBO.

While watching the finale, I asked my boyfriend if he thought I was more Arya or Sansa. I do have a bit of an end-of-GOT Sansa side, or at least I thought I did. Back when I worked a normal job (in an office!) I strove to be a good leader in a male-dominated environment. I pushed myself, feigned confidence before I really had it, and spoke up to say I was going to do things differently. And I’m a redhead.

You’ve always been an Arya, he told me.

As I watched Arya gather her beautiful maps, kit herself out for exploring, and stand aboard her boat ready to discover what’s west of Westeros, I thought of my favourite Tennyson poem.

I learned it by heart several years ago, and often think of it – especially when trying to drift off on sleepless nights. I’ve talked about the poem before, but here’s the extract that made me think of Arya:

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks: 
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep 
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, 
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world. 
Push off, and sitting well in order smite 
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
Of all the western stars, until I die. 
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: 
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

From “Ulysses” by Lord Alfred Tennyson

What I love most about stories – whether books, poetry, film, television, movies, or even visual art – is how they can shape our character and bring out our best.

If you have an Arya side, and I think many of us do somewhere, think about how you can bring it out and shape the direction of your life in a way that thrills you.

In my own life, I’ve made the decision to head back to Greenland, one of my favourite places in the world. In July I’m going to be hiking the Arctic Circle trail from the ice cap at Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut by the sea – a route with zero phone signal, no bathrooms or showers, no food top-ups, but thankfully a lot of fresh water. It’ll be a self-reliant adventure in one of the most remote places on earth, and I can hardly wait. I’ll probably be posting about it on Instagram in the next few months.

I’m also leaving the Swiss Alps next month, which has been my home for the last four years. It’ll be sad to go, but new adventures are coming. As fiction shows us time and again, the life we want is out there and waiting to be discovered if we want it.

Today, take the time to ponder this: how can fiction bring out the most courageous, fulfilled version of you?


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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