Gather ‘Round, Padawans: Know Your Value

Reading Time: 8 minutes
c. Eleni Romanias and Bryan Golden
c. Eleni Romanias and Bryan Golden

I’ve written about knowing one’s value before but the message bears repeating because it’s important. So. So. Important.

And because:

  1. Remaining true to self is an apropos topic for the beginning of the school year; new teachers and new friends mean kids encountering new challenges as they try to navigate the larger world while maintaining integrity of self. Being confident in one’s own value, feeling that one is worth getting to know and understand, is essential for positive school, and life, experiences.
  2. I unintentionally had a “know your value” theme weekend and ended up spending a fair bit of time contemplating my own worth, realizing I’ve finally found it, and wondering, once more, how I can help my children do the same before they enter their (very) late-30s.

Early Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting Eleni Romanias at a signing for her new graphic novel, Greek Goddess (thanks, Phantom of the Attic. There’s an interview with the lovely Eleni down below). Greek Goddess (art by Bryan Golden) is a joyous, powerful story about high school student Athena, a kind, loving, generous, talented girl who has little faith in her own value. Despite a dedicated family, pride in her heritage, intelligence, and so many other amazing qualities, Athena constantly berates herself for not meeting society’s exception of grace or beauty.

c. Eleni Romanias and Bryan Golden
c. Eleni Romanias and Bryan Golden

Enter Diomedes (and his glorious manga mullet), who reveals to Athena she is, in fact, the reincarnation of the goddess of the same name and only she can defeat Ares and Aphrodite (and let’s pause for a moment to appreciate this Aphrodite is a brunette, which is infinitely more likely given genetics), when they wage war on Zeus in hopes of taking Olympus. Athena is dubious both because the tale is the stuff of myths (ironically-not ironically) and because she has judged herself by the standards of others rather than her own. Society, for example, deems Athena “plus sized” when she is, in fact, strong; she is teased about her good grades but is, in fact, wise beyond her teenage years. While more selfish people get what they want with a snap of their fingers, Athena dedicates her time to others despite then having to rush through much of her own life.

All of this and Athena still apologizes constantly not only for things she does or doesn’t do, but for who she is.

Things change over the course of the graphic novel, however, as Diomedes teaches Athena more about her origins and as she starts to see proof of her power, how special she is, how remarkable. She turns her color guard skills into spear throwing skills in a matter of days by accepting every part of herself, even those which are outside the norm. Because Diomedes trusts Athena’s judgment, follows her lead even when they disagree, supports her without smothering, Athena comes to trust herself. After her victory over Ares and Aphrodite, with Diomedes and her brother Apollo as backup, Athena realizes she saved the world not by being who that world expected her to be but by being exactly who she is.

c. Disney/Lucasfilm
c. Disney/Lucasfilm

I also rewatched the Star Wars: Rebels season 2 finale, Twilight of the Apprentice (1&2), this weekend which further drove the importance of knowing one’s own value home. I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers here, but bear with me if something slips out.

In Twilight of the Apprentice, we see what disaster can befall even the bravest and best heroes when they lose faith in themselves.

Kanan and Ezra are remarkable characters. We know it. Their friends know it. Unfortunately, neither of them is aware of their own value. Karan, despite being the survivor of the massacre which destroyed everything he knew and loved, despite being the sort of man who fights to save a galaxy he has every reason to hate, despite being knighted in the Jedi temple on Lothal, and helping Ezra grow from a Loth-rat to a Rebel, frequently laments his lack of skill as a teacher, berates himself as an incomplete Jedi, second-guesses himself as a father. Even Ahsoka and Hera’s reassurances don’t convince him of how incredible it all is, of his importance to the galaxy and to a young man desperately in need of someone to whom he can cling.

Ezra wants so badly to please Kanan but despite having been on his own for years after the Empire arrested his parents, despite his becoming someone who thinks of other before himself, despite his evolution into a proper padawan, is also a child, rightfully frustrated and in pain. He is terrified to lose his new family, having already lost the one into which he was born, either through the actions of others or by some mistake of his own. Because he spent so many years questioning his purpose, his worth, he perceives Kanan’s concern and love as mistrust. Ezra pulls away when he should be moving closer, caught in the trap of a certain former Sith lord who knows exactly how to play Ezra: remind him over and over any error he makes could be the death of everyone he holds dear and that he must embrace something external, the Dark Side, to keep them safe rather than trusting the light inside of him.

There is so much beauty in the relationship between Kanan and Ezra, in how much they love one another. There is much to learn from two male characters have no reservations about expressing their feelings, even if the exchanges are sometimes a bit on the… sarcastic side. The way Ezra, who feels he needs to be the strongest, toughest rebel in the fleet can cry in Kanan’s arms after a tragedy and Kanan can hold him, comfort him, despite his own physical pain and his own terrible losses.

c. Disney/Lucasfilm
c. Disney/Lucasfilm

The tragedy, the black irony, in it all is that Kanan and Ezra are so determined to be worthy of one another, are so focused on not failing one another, each completely fails himself. Perhaps if Kanan knew his value, he would have confronted said former Sith Lord sooner or more directly. Perhaps if Ezra believed he was worthy of Kanan’s faith, he would have understood Kanan not only trusted him, but would do anything to help Ezra find, and stay in, the light.

If, like Diomedes, we know our value, embrace who we are (provided that who doesn’t harm anyone else), love the idiosyncrasies and geekiness, embrace our obsessions (as Neil Gaiman has so gorgeously phrased it), if we stand, as in that famous Captain American quote and tell society, “No, you move,” when someone mocks our brains or stares at our ink or denigrates our cosplay, or tells us comics are for kids, we’ll eventually come to have faith in ourselves. Once we have it, we can pass it down to our children. If they see us remain true to who we are, see us give that barbaric yawp of,  “I am who I am, not who you want me to be,” they’ll do the same. They’ll know no matter what anyone says, no matter the mocking or the taunts, no matter the “you shouldn’ts” and “you can’ts,” they can do anything.

If we don’t? They may be all right. The world has been turning for a while. Civilizations rise and fall, things change. More likely? There will be turnings and risings and collapses but they won’t be what they should be, what they could be because those who might enact change are terrified of what may happen if they come forward, if they dye their hair purple or start fights that need to be started. They may stagger into misunderstanding or, even more distressingly, into tragedy. Which isn’t to say everyone who believes in herself gets a happy ending. But, at the very least, she is confident in the courage of her convictions.

This is a sacred trust. It is one of the most important things we can do as parents to help in the creation of a better, more tolerant, kinder, beautiful world. Yes, everyone has limits. Everyone has weaknesses, things they have yet to learn. We need to teach out kids to understand limits and weaknesses and ignorance as universal constants so they know they have room to grow. Eternal potential to become stronger. The potential to be remarkable in their own contexts.

Love yourself for you are. Lead by example. Teach your children the value of every human life.

Including their own.

Interview with Eleni Romanias

c Eleni Romanias
c Eleni Romanias

GM: Give us the elevator pitch for Greek Goddess.

ERGreek Goddess is about a charmingly awkward high school senior who would never be seen as your typical heroine; she turns out to have the spirit of the ancient warrior goddess Athena inside her. In a story of real Greek mythology mixed into a fictional world, she unexpectedly becomes the warrior she needs to be when the God of War comes seeking revenge. As she goes from a marching band flag twirler to an effortless spear-wielder, this modern day Athena begins to recognize the goddess she always has been.

GM: Did you have anyone particular in mind when you were developing your concept/characters?

ER: When I was first creating the story, as an actress, Athena was a character I hoped to play on screen. That being the case, I actually put a good bit of my own personality into the character and incorporated certain life experiences into the story. I myself was the color guard captain in my high school’s marching band and I thought it would be a really cool concept to have the color guard/flag twirling aspect be what actually becomes her greatest weapon and skill. Being a fan of Greek mythology as well while researching the different gods and goddesses in relation to Athena, the characters kind of formed themselves into the story. In terms of the look of the characters, I did have a pretty specific vision… based off of how they developed in the story. I did also try to give a bit of creative freedom to my amazing illustrator Bryan Golden and he really brought the characters to life.

GM: Is this your first book? Are you planning on writing others? What’s your favorite genre to write in? To read? Least favorite for each? Why?

ER: Believe it or not, this actually is my first book. The possibility of a sequel has crossed my mind; fortunately the mythological realm offers a lot of material and I have had some ideas of where the story could go. If I’m being honest, though… I really would like to write more screenplays. I adapted this book into a live-action screenplay and, being an actress, I’ve come to realize that I enjoy creating the story and characters for the screen as much as I like playing them. So we’ll see what happens! I’ve always been a fan of comedy, both writing and reading, but I enjoy a little bit of everything. I’m not particularly gifted in portraying any specific genre over another… I like to try them all. Although I will say I don’t think I will ever be a horror writer or reader. I have absolutely nothing against the genre but I’m a scared-cat so it’s safer for me to just veer away from those kinds of stories.

GM: Are you a comics reader? Any favorites? A manga reader? Favorite title?

ER: I’ve always been a fan of the shows and movies based off of the Marvel and DC Universes, my brothers and I watched them a good bit growing up. I remember the X-Men cartoon series being big on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t until more recently that I actually got into reading the comics and mangas. I really like the visual style of anime so I tend to gravitate to those books/shows more. Two of my favorite classics are Yugioh and Sailor Moon.

GM: What are you working on now?

ER: …I am actually in pre-production for the feature film as we speak. I recently started my own production company, Little Pudd Productions LLC, to produce so it’s been a pretty full time job trying to bring this story to the big screen. In the meantime, I have been so fortunate to be doing some book signings for the graphic novel on both the East and West coasts and am hoping to bring the book, and eventually film, to different comic cons in the near future!

GM: What color is your saber?

ER: Definitely green.

Eleni Romanias was born on October 12, 1992 in Pittsburgh, PA. Her passion for acting started at a young age while she attended the Center for Theater Arts during her middle and high school years. To save money, after she graduated she first attended the Community College of Allegheny County South Campus where she unexpectedly took part in an incredible theater program and received her Associate Degree. She was then accepted into the Penn State School of Theatre where she received her B.A. in December 2013. Shortly after, she moved to Burbank, CA, where she has been pursuing her acting and writing career ever since. She is probably most known for her published graphic novel Greek Goddess. She adapted the graphic novel into a live action feature film that is currently in pre-production through her LLC company Little Pudd Productions. She is honored to portray the first young plus-size action hero to be seen on screen in Greek Goddess and hopes to continue promoting the importance of body positivity and realistic role models in today’s film industry.

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