Of Mice and Levi Ackerman

If you aren’t familiar with Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama, you should familiarize yourself. It’s good. Partly because of the story and original concepts, but mostly because of Levi Ackerman–the best character in the series. My love for Levi is the closest thing adult me has experienced to a celebrity crush.

This post contains spoilers about the story. If you hate spoilers, read the manga or watch the anime first. If you don’t mind spoilers, continue.

Yes, Levi is a cartoon. Yes, my love for him is real.

Most fictional heroes and heroines come from a long line of warriors, often with royal blood or special powers. Though there are numerous reasons to love Levi, the one relevant to this post is his upbringing. While he does come from a clan of warriors, and he does have an “awakening” of power, his mom was a desperate prostitute who died in the Underground, leaving him hopelessly alone and nearly dead himself.

Eventually, Levi is saved by a man who, it turns out, is a serial killer (and that’s all I’ll say about him here, but I highly encourage you to read the manga!), and is raised as a thug in the Underground. It’s in this setting Levi learns to fight, and develops insane skills that lead him to become the strongest soldier in the Survey Corps.

Levi’s personality is extremely well-developed with lasting post-traumatic habits and deep empathy for others’ suffering that’s expressed through total dedication to the scouts’ fight rather than kindness or close friendships. Isayama’s astounding attention to detail in developing Levi is the main reason I love the story so much.

It’s the kind of story that’s implanted within your person and immediately grows deep roots and a strong trunk. Then as your thoughts expand on its characters and concepts, they branch out to form an enormous tree producing an endless supply of delicious mental fruit that keeps you coming back for more. For days after reading, all I can think about is how I want more Levi!

It’s easy to feel like you have to be born into privilege to live a privileged life. How often do we see the children of doctors become doctors, and children of lawyers become lawyers? How many father/son dentist teams do you know? What about veterinarians? Pilots? Scientists? Teachers?

Chances are if your parents are both successful biologists, you’ve considered becoming a biologist yourself. And what a great way to get ahead in life by building on past generations! Parents should blaze trails for their children, as well as teach them how to blaze their own when the time comes.

But what about kids who grow up in the foster system, or worse? What about kids with alcoholic parents who can’t keep a steady job? What about those who come from broken homes with multiple parenting styles and forms of discipline? Where do they find a clearcut path to facility their journey through life’s wild mountainside?

What about kids like Levi?

I remember my mom turning our backyard dog run into a garden one spring. When I asked if that wasn’t a terrible decision due to the mounds of dog poop that had seeped into the dirt over the years, she said, “That’s exactly the reason I’m making it a garden! Dog poop is an excellent fertilizer!”

Through this experience, including many more conversations with mom regarding dog feces, I learned that “crap” is an excellent fertilizer for life, too. The things that happen to us, especially the hardest things, seep deep in our souls, strengthen us, and allow us to become spiritually fertile beings with incredible potential for growth.

Levi could’ve justifiably spent the rest of his life using violence to take what he wanted, never really progressing or finding purpose in his existence. Instead, he became humanity’s strongest soldier, a powerful warrior, a hero. Without his fertile soil, he may not have become those things. Though a lifetime behind other kids his age, when he blossomed, he left everyone else in his dust.

Of course, Levi’s fictional. But the lesson within his story is real. Like him, we can make of our lives what we want. We can be who and what we desire. We just have to learn to turn the crap that happens to us into fertilizer.

I don’t know all the ways to make fertilizer from feces, and it’ll be different for each person anyway. We all have unique talents and weaknesses. I lose my patience quickly. I have road rage. Once my husband touched my tooth in an irritating way and I was outraged for weeks. I don’t suppose I’ve ever felt so irate. Some of you may have been able to laugh it off. Others may not have even noticed the subtle touch. For me, it was hell. I instantly got out of bed and stomped to the couch spewing profanities and asking how he dared.

Remembering the experience even now, I’m running my tongue over my other teeth in a desperate attempt to even out the feeling. But it’ll never even out; his touch has been there on that one tooth, on the side of my mouth that for my sanity’s sake must stay cooler than the other, for so much longer.

Just like working out, if we want to be spiritually and emotionally strong, we have to start by practicing. For me, that means taking a deep breath in, and expanding my perspective the next time my husband’s finger brushes my tooth uninvited. I don’t know what it means for you, but I know you can do it. Start by acknowledging your weaknesses, and the ways you can improve.

You don’t have to come from a rich family, or the most popular family on your street, or even a functional family to make something amazing of your life. You have a Levi Ackerman inside of you, with the potential to become a great warrior, and a hero to others. So take some time to meditate today, and see if you can’t discover a couple ways to improve your life so you can start taking down the Titans that stand between you and your dream life.

Also, read Attack on Titan. You won’t regret it.

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