Lost girl

It never occurred to me. How ordinary her feelings were. How ordinary her appearance was. How ordinary her life was. Yet, she was nowhere near “ordinary.” She was a real hero.

When my 9-year-old cousin told me she had never watched Mulan, I did not believe her at first. She had read the book version of Mulan and had seen all her heroic scenes on YouTube, so I was quick to assume that she had also seen the film. Now that I knew she had not, I was determined to show her that not all Disney female characters were damsels in distress, longing to be rescued.

As I watched Mulan with her nearly 8 years after my first time watching it, I realized that Mulan was the only Disney “princess” I could relate to. This time around, the movie really touched me – the lost girl inside of me. Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, although they faced adversity also, they never felt real to me. Mulan shows the reality of the identity crisis a young girl faces – that I am facing now. Mulan is just a normal girl trying to find her place in the world. Aren’t most of us? I am 18 years old and I have no idea where I belong. Whether I am trying to find myself as a student, journalist, dancer, daughter or just a regular girl, I lose myself as soon as I start to find myself. Every time, I am belittled by something or someone – a lot of times myself. I am right back where I started, if not more perplexed.

I was almost in tears when Mulan sang, “Somehow I cannot find who I am though I’ve tried. Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” I remember rehearsing this song with my voice lesson teacher in sixth grade. At that time, it was just a beautiful song that carried an air of melancholy and fit perfectly in my soprano range. It did not, however, strike a chord in my heart.

Listening to the song again, this time in Mulan’s shoes, I heard the song for what felt like the first time. Right then, Mulan spoke to me more than ever – she made me realize that I was not the only one having trouble finding myself. She made me realize that it was okay to not know everything about who I am.

The truth is not all of us wake up with an identity. Some of us have to search for it. Some of us have to fight for it – like Mulan did. Mulan was proof that a lost girl could find her way. She was an example of how a girl who appeared ordinary could make a difference in the world.

I know she is just a fictional Disney character and I am an adult, legally at least. But no one has ever felt so real to me. No one has ever understood me the way she did. Fiction or nonfiction, I suppose at one point every teenager, including me, feels like no one understands us and like what we are going through is rare and unheard of. However, a lot of times, it is because we do not understand ourselves. I cannot expect someone else to understand me when I cannot even begin to tell my own story. But it is frustrating, how the feeling of misplacement can make a person feel so alone in the world. Sometimes, the only person who is able to understand me is the person who is just as disoriented as I am. Real or not, Mulan is that person for me.

Now more than ever, I need Mulan. I need her strength and discipline to direct myself on the right path. I need her courage and fearlessness to overcome my self-doubt. Most of all, I need her determination to move forward from everything I am and become everything I can be.