“I was thinking about the word handle, and all the unholdable things that got handled” – The Fault in Our Stars, John Green, p. 60
When I re-read TFiOS last year for a critical essay on YA heroines, this line stood out to me, and I wondered why I’d never seen it before. The first few times that I read TFiOS, this quote didn’t jump out to me. (I think I was distracted by the plethora of other beautiful lines, but that’s a whole other story.) It wasn’t until last year, when I was desperately trying to write a short novel extract as well as a critical essay on YA literature that I saw this and was totally grabbed by it.
I try to do this thing where I write down quotes that stick with me so that, when I’m having a hard time, I can look back on them and feel better. Oftentimes, these quotes end up on the top of planner pages or scribbled on sticky notes. Rarely, I add them to the mess of posters on my wall. This quote has been on my wall for a little over a year now.
I think it was just that’s what I felt like I was exactly doing in that moment—trying to “handle” something. Not conquer it. Not get past it. But handle it. I felt weird about school and generally anxious about life, and I just wanted to handle the “unholdable things” and keep on going. Because “unholdable things” were just that—the things that I was never really able to fully get a grasp of and that I felt out of control of in, sometimes, a really terrifying way.
Beyond its simple truth to my life at the time, what also drew me to this quote was the physicality of these unholdable emotions. I always think of the word handle as in emotionally taking care of something. But hold. Well, hold has a sort of physicality that I’m not able to get past. I feel like our society has this tendency to believe things once it’s made physical, and I feel like in making this emotional struggle of dealing with life and turning it into something that can be held—or that is impossible to hold—is a really powerful thing.
I’m usually of the mind that I can fix things and that things will be able to get better, but this quote doesn’t demand that kind of pressure from me. It just states that impossible things get done, and that he holdable can be handled. It’s just a comforting little sentiment.
This quote is one that I remember when things are going wrong. There’s a truth to it and just a rightness to it that I think is one of the reasons I really love John’s writing as a whole. He’s the kind of writer that you read and are just like, “Of course this thing is like that. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?”
His texts have gotten me through so much, but this quote in particular saved me in a lot of ways. It got me through writing my dissertation back in England and being so many miles away from many of my friends and family that it was a physical ache. (And this is not to say that things weren’t awesome in England, because they often were, but when they weren’t I thought of this quote.) And it’s going to get me through a lot more this year, I think.
But it will be held. It will be handled.
I truly do believe that.