Happiness in Just Being:
How Supernatural Gripped Me Tight and Raised Me from Perdition
I am a broke college student. What little money I have is often spent on books I don’t technically need, much to the chagrin of my mother, who I have clearly not learned how to budget from. Furthermore, with “Supernatural” conventions on the 2021 calendar, saving money has really become something I strive to do. Nonetheless, sometimes my budgeting fails.
Trudging through Barnes & Noble one evening, looking for two YA books I’d recently added to my reading list, I walked into a “Supernatural” display. Now, as mentioned above, I’m a college student with limited funds to my name, but my investment in the Winchester brothers and their angelic ally Castiel had peaked this semester, and I was immediately drawn to one of the books, a volume entitled Family Don’t End With Blood, which had a drawing of the Winchesters standing against their 1967 Impala.
After a brief, agonized contemplation, I bought the book, along with several other pieces of “Supernatural” paraphernalia, completely depleting my bank account – this is not hyperbole. Though I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the essays people have written in this book about how “Supernatural” changed their lives, I am conscious of one indisputable truth: it changed mine, too. So, in the spirit of inspiration by the book, here is the story of how “Supernatural” gripped me tight and raised me from perdition.
I almost died this semester.
No, no. That’s too passive. I almost killed myself this semester. It’s unfair to say “I almost died” as though it wasn’t something completely in my control. Well, both under my control and ridiculously out of my control.
I got low this semester. It’s been a taxing year for everyone, I grant, and I was no exception. I’d fallen into such a bad place that I had taken to cutting myself with the red kitchen knife my mom had given me when I graduated high school. Cutting became a routine, something I would fall back upon. But I eventually stopped. And as I think back to the last evening I ever cut myself, I wonder what stayed my hand, what made me put that knife down.
It wasn’t my friends. Some of use weren’t even talking at this point.
It wasn’t my family. We were in a bad place, too.
It was something about me. Some resolution to keep living, despite every bad thing that had happened to me in the last 12 months.
Two months later, I shrugged out of my trench coat, making sure to keep my open button-down on over my grey waffle undershirt, the cold already biting through my heavily layered clothing. My clothing at this point is 75% inspired by the Winchester brothers, from my red, purple, and green striped button-down to my now just broken-in Doc Martens; the other 25% belongs to Castiel, who inspired me to buy this trench coat. And it so happened that America’s Thrift Store had just what I was looking for – for $16.99.
I surveyed the now almost empty campus of the University of Alabama, oddly empty for the middle of dead week; it seemed that most of the students have seen fit to go home, unlike me and my ragtag group of friends, most of whom decided to stay through until the end of finals week. I caught a glimpse of two people walking their dog across the Quad, and they probably noticed me as well, sitting on the steps of Gorgas Library, a haunt usually occupied by many students at this time of year.
But, then again, it hasn’t exactly been a normal year, by any standards.
When the quarantine hit and I suddenly found myself back home at my parents’ place, I did what half of the population must have decided to do – I began watching a new TV series. With “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” and “Good Omens” already under my belt, the obvious place to go next was “Supernatural.” I had shockingly written it off as a show of little interest, because it was American, not British. Nonetheless, I didn’t think anything particular about this particular choice; it more just seemed like a natural next step. My younger sister and I began with “Pilot” and stopped somewhere in the middle of season 3, when my sister lost interest in the show. But my journey with “Supernatural” didn’t end there.
As an English major, I’d been thinking about what I’m going to write my senior thesis on, and I eventually decided to write it on free will in the works of John Milton. And in exploring Miltonic free will in modern media for my directed readings class with my thesis director, Dr. Ainsworth, I found that “Supernatural” spoke volumes for the research I wanted to conduct for this class. Thus, without hesitation, Dr. Ainsworth and I added “Supernatural,” seasons 4 and 5, to our syllabus for the course.
I won’t lie, though, this semester got away from me.
I had a fight with one of my best friends and we didn’t talk for weeks.
I was sent to the North Harbor psychiatric facility for the second time this year.
Needless to say, with all of this stacking up on me, school became a less than a priority. My grades started slipping in all my classes, especially in Italian, where, for the first time in three years, my grade dropped from the usual A+ all the way down to a C.
I forgot all about “Supernatural,” BSing relevant facts about it and free will during my meetings with Dr Ainsworth, barely having a hold on my Milton project at all.
My grades were tanking, and my mental health was slipping out of my control. For the first time in my life, I really didn’t know what to do. I resorted to cutting on the regular, always in the same place, the outside of my wrist. At first, I’d just barely draw blood, but one time – the last time – I cut it so deeply that it wouldn’t stop bleeding. My sweatpants were covered in blood, as was my bathroom floor. That’s when I realized I needed to stop.
It was a resolution. A resolution that I would never cut myself again. I hate making promises, and try to avoid them at all costs, but when I make promises, I keep them. And this is what I promised myself. And it was hard. It was so hard!
Nonetheless, life began looking up.
Sometime in the weeks that I was back at my parents’ place in New Mexico, healing, I realized I wanted my essay for Dr. Ainsworth to be a good essay; I wanted it to be lit journal-worthy, hopefully.
That meant I needed to watch seasons 4 and 5 of “Supernatural.” Which meant I needed to finish season 3 first.
I made a half-hearted attempt to start season 3 back up where we’d left off, but I watched one episode and lost interest, my overtaxed mind refusing to focus on the Winchesters. Besides, Castiel was the relevant character for my essay, not the Winchesters, and he didn’t show up until season 4.
Okay, I thought, I’ll give up the chronological watching and just start season 4. I did. And from then on, I kept watching. At first I watched every episode, but with deadlines for my paper coming up quicker than I was prepared for, I began just watching episodes that Castiel appeared in.
I didn’t stop once I’d finished the relevant seasons, either. The Winchester brothers and Castiel quickly became an integral part of my life – and that’s where this story truly begins.
Once lightning strikes in my soul, it usually means we’re in for the long haul, which in this case means 15 seasons worth of the long haul, culminating in my senior thesis next fall, a project linking John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained with “Supernatural.” I found the link – love is what gives us free will, and all of the media I was engaging with supported this idea.
Don’t even get me started on how Castiel in season 15 ties into this thesis, but oh my goodness, he does.
In “Supernatural,” I found more than examples of how the power of love gives individuals free will. I found things relatable to me that I never would have previously been able to relate to, had it not been for this profoundly hellish year.
I found Sam Winchester.
Sam Winchester is not perfect. Sam Winchester has so many faults. Sam Winchester is so profoundly relatable that I count him responsible for saving my life.
How did Sam Winchester inspire me and how does he continue to inspire me? I couldn’t count the ways. But I think the most important thing about Sam was that he taught me I was okay. Broken as I was, Sam taught me that I was not beyond saving – that there was hope that I could still get my life back on track.
One of the key aspects of season 4 is Sam’s addiction to drinking demon blood. I saw myself in Sam; his addiction to demon blood mirrored my addiction to self-harm. On that night I realized I needed to stop, I made a deal with myself that I was never going to pick up a knife again. And I haven’t. Now, whenever I start to feel that I’d be better off dead, or when I tempted to pick up a knife again, I think of Sam Winchester. If for no other reason, I can do it for Sam. As Sam taught me, you can overcome addiction and get your life back on track – even when the addiction makes you feel so good and you suffer withdrawal without it. If Sam Winchester can avoid demon blood, I can avoid cutting myself. And I have. For nearly two months.
Sam continues to encourage me to not lose faith. For instance, when Sam didn’t tell Dean the whole truth about what he was doing, that caused his brother to lose trust in him. Sam didn’t tell Dean that he was drinking demon blood, teaming up with a demon, or any number of other things. Dean flat out tells Sam that he can’t trust him anymore, that their relationship will never be what it once was. And that resounds with my soul in ways so hurtful I wish it didn’t. My oldest sister said she doesn’t trust me anymore, after things I’ve said and not said this year. I see myself in the same situation with her as Sam is with Dean. And it hurts; but at least I have Sam to relate to.
But perhaps most importantly, Sam Winchester tries to do right by the people around him. Sam tries to focus on others rather than himself, and he tries to help whenever he can. I wish I was more like Sam Winchester, and I am eternally grateful to Jared Padalecki for his portrayal of Sam that inspired me to continue on.
Castiel, too, makes me strive for better. And when I say that Castiel’s final speech in 15.18 is the reason I’m as happy as I am, I mean it.
Castiel makes a simple statement: “Happiness isn’t in the having; it’s in just being.”
Though people may have gripes about season 15 of “Supernatural,” one thing that kept right until the end was solid character development. Nobody did anything outrageously out of character, and for that I am truly grateful. As could be expected, “Supernatural” ended in heartache, but also a profound sense of peace – the idea that if you pursue the greater good, as motivated by those you love, you will have a fulfilling life.
I think I finally understand.
Years of depression and anxiety cannot stack up to these few words:
“Happiness isn’t in the having; it’s in just being.”
I’ve finally found my happiness, and I have “Supernatural” to thank for that.
This essay would be incomplete, however, without a shout-out to Dean Winchester as well. Although I see less of myself in Dean, I admire many traits he possesses. He cares about his family, almost to a fault, and he cares about his friends. While he doesn’t express feelings on the regular, he does in the important moments, and that’s what matters.
Dean Winchester is perhaps a role model I could take, saving people, caring about his family and friends, and living life to the fullest.
Furthermore, Dean is arguably a bisexual icon. I really appreciate both the subtle and blatant ways in which Dean Winchester’s sexuality is portrayed on screen. Though I know not everyone believes that Dean is queer, as a queer person, I find the idea of Dean being a canonically bisexual character in mainstream television exceptionally powerful. So it’s canon to me.
Watching Dean’s death scene in 15.20 nearly broke me. Although a good friend and I tried to get drunk to watch the season 15 finale, alcohol was not enough to prepare me for the emotions I felt watching that one last episode. When Dean died, it genuinely felt like I’d lost a good friend. I cried a lot. Both in the moment and in the days that followed.
But missing things reminds me to be grateful for the fact that these things exist in the first place. Yes, “Supernatural” may have ended, but we were lucky to have it with us for fifteen years.
Because, after all, “Happiness isn’t in the having; it’s in just being.”
“Supernatural” taught me that love of friends and family can truly save the world, and that in a world where you can be anything and love anyone, it’s best to be yourself. So here I am.
With this essay drawing to a close and the cold air beginning to freeze my fingers as I type, I have one last thing to say:
I don’t seek acceptance or love or approval from anyone other than myself – I am no one’s but mine – and I now have a new life mantra. Say it with me.
“Happiness isn’t in the having; it’s in just being.”
The fact that an ex-blood junkie, a fallen angel, and a college dropout with six bucks to his name saved my life speaks volumes both to how “Supernatural” affected me, as well as how bad things had to get to get me to that point. I can look back on this year, everything I did right and everything I did wrong, and one thought rings truer than all the others: “Supernatural” changed the course of this year – and my life.
Edited and Illustrated by Alice Jester.
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