What Huge Life Lesson Dash & Lily Taught Me

This past holiday season Netflix released a short eight-episode series called “Dash & Lily” based off the book series by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Having read from these authors before, I had high hopes for the series and thankfully was not disappointed in the slightest. The show offers a wonderful cast of characters, relatable scenes, and a cute finale that made being on the edge of your seat the whole time worth it. As a half Asian womxn with a gay brother and anxiety issues, I personally related to Lily in way more ways than one. It somewhat felt like I was watching an alternate (albeit cuter and more exciting) version of my life. So I became quickly invested and found that the show taught me lessons much deeper than I had expected to learn from a cutesy holiday romcom: you can’t (and shouldn’t) blame everyone else for all your problems. 

There’s a lot of blame that gets thrown around in the show, of course since it’s a drama, but what’s amazing is that pretty much all of the characters take accountability by the end of the show. I learned this lesson primarily from Lily and her experience with her bully, Edgar Thibaud. Lily blames Thibaud for her struggle with social anxiety since he called her “weird” in elementary school and even confronts him at an open mic in episode 5 saying “because of you, I stayed home every time I had the chance to go out and make friends.” As her feelings pour out she adds, “I wish I could have gone up to you that day after the dance and told you how upset you made me. And gotten it out of my system and lived a normal life. I wish I could have stood up to all the bullies who made me feel too weird, too different, too Asian. But you know what? I was only twelve years old.” Then the music cuts and Thibaud stands to respond, “So was I. I had no idea that I did any of that.” 

That scene still makes me tear up every time I watch because of how seen I feel watching Lily confess everything she does. So, at first, I felt so angry at Thibaud. I thought how does he not know the effect his words had? But I realized, as did Lily I believe, that there was no way he would have known until she told him. The facts are that Lily could have stood up to him and lived “normally” like she says, but she didn’t. She did not deserve to feel all those feelings, especially at age 12, but she had to anyway. And now as a teenager she needed to reclaim them as her own, the way she did in the show, or else she would have kept going around blaming others like Thibaud for ruining her life when in reality that takes away her own authority over it.

A photo of scrabble words assembled to spell uploaded to Pixabay by Wokandapix, but credit/attribution not required. She explains it perfectly, “You don’t get to have that power over me, Edgar,” as she acknowledges her feelings on that stage. She realizes that it’s her choice to let that single event define her or not, Thibaud himself doesn’t matter. Nor does his apology because what matters is Lily validating herself. By going back and wishing she helped her younger self, she’s comforting her inner child. That’s what makes her feel better at the end of her speech and what allows her to forgive Thibaud since he was just a child too. She finally chooses to show compassion to herself and him rather than keep a painful grudge that’s no longer useful. 

This scene also taught me the reason why Lily’s wish for things to be different wouldn’t help her as much as she thinks it would have. That moment when Thibaud called 12-year-old Lily “weird” may have been rude, unkind, and unwarranted but it shaped Lily in another way than she believed it to. She sees that instance as the cause of her social anxiety but it also caused her to be so sympathetic and kind to everyone else around her. To spread all the joy and cheer that she does at the beginning of the series. If she hadn’t gone through what she did, she wouldn’t be Lily. Or who knows, someone else might have called her “weird” instead. 

woman in bed under covers Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Stocksnap Nobody deserves to go through pain but nearly all of will anyway. At the end of the day, what happens to you in life doesn’t matter as much as how you react to it. Blaming other people or the world only gives them the power to keep you down next time. You can choose to see everything and everyone as maliciously out to get you or you can take the lessons they teach you (however bittersweet) and keep going on your way from there.