Close your eyes and imagine having had an experience that changed your life forever. One that was so impactful, you felt the need to relocate and curate a new life and fresh narrative for yourself that far removed you from the experience you would rather forget. At this point, you are living in a new world that is filled with new people, new experiences, and just about everything you could have ever wanted – and the best part is that you are distanced from the experience that initially led you to pursue the new life you are fortunate to have.
And as you begin to ease into the comfort of your new life, imagine being approached by someone who wants to dive into your past about the experience you worked tirelessly and strategically to move forward from. And then suddenly, without warning, you are forced to relive and revisit a painful past you just wish you could forget. No matter what you do.
Such was the experience of a young woman named Ani Fanelli in the new Netflix thriller titled Luckiest Girl Alive.
And as I watched this gripping film, I was constantly reminded that no matter how hard we work, how hard we try, or how many times we attempt to keep pressing forward, the one person and thing we can never truly escape is ourselves. In Luckiest Girl Alive, Ani was a very successful woman living in New York, working as a writer for a cool women’s magazine and engaged to a wealthy and equally (if not more) successful partner named Luke with whom she was building her life. And Ani seemingly had it all – a great career, a man who loved her, a killer wardrobe, and a posh life in the city, except for one thing: peace. When Ani is approached by a filmmaker doing a true-crime documentary about a school shooting she survived, her world slowly begins to unravel in some troubling and heartbreaking ways.
As Ani’s past unfolds, she is forced to face some tragic events that took place in her life as a teenager that continue to haunt her as an adult. It was revealed that Ani was gang-raped at a party by some of her classmates from the private school she attended and later accused of being an accomplice in a school shooting that followed shortly after two peers she grew close with learned of her assault. Because Ani was friends with the school shooters (who were aware of the other classmates involved in her assault), Ani carried the weight and blame for the fallout because of her connection to the shooters. When the film shows flashbacks of what happened, from the beginning of her arrival of being a student on scholarship at the private school she attended, to meeting the wealthy in-crowd of her peers whose acceptance she wanted, to suddenly finding herself thrust into the complicated world of teenage cliques, drama, peer pressure, and sexual assault, it’s not surprising that Ani felt the desire to reinvent herself and escape her past as an adult.
And as I watched Ani, I thought about how some of us have tried to do the same – maybe not in the exact same ways she did, but in others. How many times have you or someone you know attempted to distance yourselves from people, places, and tough things that you have been through to escape what’s happened to you? And no matter how much you try, no matter how much you change your looks, or how lavish your lifestyle, or how cool your career opportunities, or how amazing the people are who you choose to date, marry, or have kids with, you will eventually come to realize that we can never truly escape ourselves.
And while that may be a difficult thing to accept and process, the one thing you can do is do your best to get to the other side of whatever it is you have been through that you feel you need to escape from. Because, ultimately, we can never escape ourselves. I know that everyone’s situation is different, and maybe you’ve been through things like Ani or worse, but just know that you don’t have to run, hide, or be ashamed of who you are or what’s happened to you. You can still change without feeling the need to hide behind titles, your relationship status, your career, your money, or your material things.
You can live your life, stand in your truth, and heal and recover from your past as long as you’re still breathing. I know this won’t be easy. Confronting and facing that which you might be running from never is, but you can decide to hide out or bravely and boldly move through as best as you can. Because choosing to face yourself and do the work might be one of the bravest things you ever do.