I Am Moana
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.
“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.
“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
Do you know who you are?”
“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.