I Am Moana

By Anne

Like so many other parents to little girls, my husband and I saw Moana in the theatre over Christmas break with our four children. Even watching with my two year old my lap, shoving popcorn down my shirt, tears welled up in my eyes a few times during the show. The movie was ridiculously beautiful and what Hamilton fan could watch without enjoying the music?

Now the soundtrack repeats constantly at home and in the car. When I listened a little closer I was floored. In the middle of carpool line, I wept uncontrollably. I, too, am a firstborn daughter, blessed and laden with all the birthright and expectations. I have a community that loves and supports me but also demands certain things.
DSC_5373Moana says:
“I’ve been standing at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember
Never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water
No matter how hard I try.”

The quest to be the perfect daughter. Ouch. Add wife and mother, sister and friend, woman on there too. A few years ago, I started to feel that maybe I, like Moana, am not content to live on my island forever. Struggling to explain to my wonderful, supportive husband, I said “I feel like a zebra trying to hang out with the horses. But my stripes- I just can’t hide them! And they aren’t going away.” Growing up in the Church, I know how to hang with the horses. But growing up in a part-member family, reading feminist literature, how can I hide the stripes? Should I? As for the horses all around me, do they even want a zebra around?

I felt like the only one that saw and wondered, the only one looking out at the ocean as everyone else works contentedly on the island. (Thank you, online Mormon feminism community for showing me that I am not alone). It’s not easy and Moana knows this. She tries valiantly to align outer expectations with her inner desires.

“I know everybody on this island
Seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island
Has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine
I can lead with pride
I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?”

Moana seems to have some stripes of her own. She struggles to differentiate. She’s not content to stay and although she tries to be a good girl and live up to expectations, something outside is calling her. Luckily, Moana has a brave, strong grandmother to remind her of her true worth and capability.
In the song “I am Moana”, Grandma Tala reassures Moana at a crossroads in her difficult journey.

She says:

“The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on earth can silence
The quiet voice still inside you
And when that voice starts to whisper
Moana, you’ve come so far
Moana, listen
Do you know who you are?”
Moana replies:
“Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island
I’m the girl who loves the sea
It calls me
I am the daughter of the village chief

I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me
It’s like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana!”

Moana knows the way. She knows that her ancestors sacrificed, toiled, traversed to get her to where she is. She honors them and her family now who want good things for her. She isn’t rejecting her family, even though she has a different path. She believes in a better world. She knows the answer is out there. She knows she can do hard things. She can’t silence her inner voice, and should she? No!

If my grandmother saw me staring longingly at the sea, tears running down my cheeks, the weight of the conflict upon my shoulders, I wonder what she would counsel. The unconditional love is assured, but I don’t know that she would point me to a boat either.

I, too, feel it, something calling me from the sea. Can I answer the call, can I listen to the call inside me and live bravely and authentically?

Anne loves to read, cook, and make things beautiful. She and her husband have four children.

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12 Responses

  1. Jana says:

    This post reminds me of one that I write quite some time ago for The Exponent, when I began paddling a canoe on the ocean: http://www.the-exponent.com/steering-my-own-boat/

  2. EFH says:

    I appreciate your post. It is difficult to accept the voice inside you that leads you to a different path from those around you. It takes time to figure out what it means and to make the decisions to follow such voice. But this voice is so important because it connects us to something bigger beyond our own borders. It is the beginning of an adventure. Yes, always yes, is my answer to such a voice.

  3. Caroline says:

    Lovely post. Thank you, Anne! I absolutely loved the grandmother who encouraged Moana to listen to her inner voice and embrace and discover who she truly is. May we all have mentors in our lives that encourage us to do the same!

    “She isn’t rejecting her family, even though she has a different path. She believes in a better world. She knows the answer is out there. She knows she can do hard things.” I think so many of us Mormon feminists have felt like this. It’s hard taking a different path when the norms of the community — to stick tightly to the community and conform — are so very strong.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for your sweet comment Caroline!

      I recently listened to an episode on the Slow Home Podcast talking about mentors and the important roles they play in adolescents and adults both. I don’t think it’s something we formally discuss at church much but I know church relationships have led me to some wonderful mentors in my life.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    This is powerful, Anne! I can’t help but think what a great lesson this post would be to hear to Young Women’s.

  5. Thank you! I loved that movie and this post!

  6. Tobe says:

    I loved your post! My wife and I watched this movie in the postpartum recovery room the day after she delivered our firstborn. I am also a firstborn son and my wife is an only child- a default firstborn. This song spoke to me, and your words expressed what I felt but couldn’t put into words. Tears fill my eyes as well everytime I listen to this song and I think of the world I’m bringing my son into and the pressures and expectations that will fall upon his shoulders.

    Thank you for your beautiful words, Anne.

    • Anne says:

      Thank you for your beautiful comment Tobe. Congrats on the birth of your first child. Parenthood is a wonderful and sobering learning experience, isn’t it? Glad to hear I am not a lone. Thank you.

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