I read The Hunger Games series at the age of seventeen. I read the books first, and then watched the movies. The basic concept of the book blew my mind away. Competing tooth and nail to stay alive? With competitors who are equally interested in staying alive, but way more competent in their own fields? This is going to be so AWESOME. I even changed my WhatsApp status to: May The Odds Be Ever in Your Favour.
There were many strong female characters in the book. Katniss’s mom. Primrose. Effie. Rue. Johanna. Wiress. Annie. Female characters who touched my heart. Female characters I rooted for.
But Katniss Everdeen is my true soul sister.
Katniss Everdeen is the underdog in the first book. She comes from District 12, the poorest district, with absolutely no training for the Hunger Games. Katniss is skilled in only one thing: hunting. More specifically, hunting with a bow and a quiver of arrows. She wasn’t even as good as Gale in terms of setting up snares. Her survival skills were 100% in a forest and at the trade centre. In any other situation, she was like a fish out of water.
Yet, as she stepped into the arena, she knew she had to capitalise on her talent of staying alive in a forest. Using the basic tricks of survival in a forest, for example: staying far far away from a tracker jacker’s nest and not eating the poisonous berries, she made her way unscathed back into her home of District 12.
This section of Katniss’s life is the one that felt the most relevant to me.
For me, writing has been my only talent. I don’t know how to dance, sing, make small talk, paint, draw. Nothing. I’ve only been able to express my emotions through the medium of the written word. I can’t make my jaw work during a debate, even though debating is also a literary skill.
This lack of achievement in other fields worried me. Would people swipe left over me? Would people avert their eyes when I tried to make friends? Would interviewers notice the lack of bullet points in my CV? It was pretty obvious to me back then: everyone would want to be friends with someone who dabbles in a lot of cool stuff. Who would want to stick around with a geek who manically obsesses on using the perfect keyboard / pen anyway?
I felt my self esteem dip a bit lower every time I heard about so-and-so’s accomplishments. “Oh look, she won a business strategy event.” “There she is, the winner of the recent national swimming competition.” “Oh no, I better make myself invisible, the next street dancing champions are here.”
And here comes in Katniss. Katniss Everdeen reminds me of everything that I am. Highly skilled in just one field. Katniss faced competitors who had been training all their lives to be selected as tributes. They trained in swordfighting, wrestling and other deadly ways to kill a human being. And all Katniss had been doing upto the date of the Reaping was hunt. Hunt to stay alive. Hunt to feed her family.
At first, while I read the part were Haymitch and Effie were discussing tactics with Katniss and Peeta, the only thought in my mind was, “Naah, she’s not going to come out alive. Primrose and her mom better start making the funeral arrangements already.” But as I read the tracker-jacker nest incident, one thing resounded clearly in my mind: in a place where you are surrounded by people who know more things than you know, capitalise on what you’re good at. Nevermind if it’s as country-bumpkin-ish as throw a nest full of deadly insects on your competitors heads. If it works, you’re the winner anyway.
And that’s when I realized this: writing had made me a better person. I no longer had to rely on composition books to write essays for school/college. I could express my views on a topic confidently, without a single scratch on the paper. I could weave stories at the snap of a finger. I could figure out which synonyms would be the perfect fit for my sentences. I could even guide my friends who wanted to start their own blog.
And then, at the age of seventeen, I realised this very important lesson: Be who you are, unapologetically. There’s no talent in this world that’s useless. Even if you can wiggle your eyebrows in a funny way, you can make people laugh, maybe save a life. Master your talent. Make sure you keep developing it constantly. And when you get the chance, show the entire world that you can make your talent work to your advantage.