Not too long ago, the video Shay Mitchell made, bidding farewell to the almost decade long running show, Pretty Little Liars, went viral. The video was met with comments from faithful fans, just like myself, admitting that the end of the era has brought them to tears. I am shocked and bewildered at the fact that a television show can mean so much to so many people, including myself. So much, that it’s ending would bring me to tears. After watching Shay’s video, I promised myself that I would, too, write my own letter saying farewell to this phenomenon that made the way into our hearts via the small screens.
I’d like to take you back to the year 2010. I was a sophomore in college. About a year prior, my medical history, my ethnicity, my nationality, my genetic make up, the wrinkle in my nose, my laugh, my eyes, all crumbled down before my eyes with one word: adopted. Simultaneously, one of my closest family members was battling cancer at the age of 19. I had started college a year prior. It was a time filled with changes. With those changes, came an earnest and strong desire to hold on to just about anything that was consistent. But, the changes only came faster. It was a difficult era, understood by only a few. Most people know us as “late discovery adoptees” or “LDA’s.” It’s a minority group within another minority group. Despite not being in my particular situation, I had one friend who stood beside me and helped me work through all of my confusion and unsettled emotions regarding the changes in my life. Her name is Erika Gobbi. On one lighthearted night a week, we would watch Pretty Little Liars in her dorm room. Although at the time I had no interest in the show, I enjoyed making this trip once a week to talk between commercials. After the season 2 finale, revealing Mona as A, the show piqued my interest and I watched all episodes up to that point. From that moment on, the emotions on this show touched me in a special and particular way, some consciously and some unconsciously. I fell in love with this cast, with it’s characters, and what each has taught me.
Over the last 7 years, I saw a person on my screen who I always was, but was always afraid to admit: ambitious, intelligent, kind of nerdy, and generally more classical. I think that growing up, if I admitted the potential I was capable of, I would be held to a higher standard, and I was afraid to fall from that standard. So, I hid behind a personality that was not my own. I saw you, for years, struggle with feeling different from your family members. I saw you fall in love with Toby and understand the essence of true love at a young age. I understood your life in a way that I have not been able to relate to any character I have come across. I cried along with you when you found Toby standing over your kitchen in the infamous black hoodie. I worried alongside you when you missed the early admissions deadline to UPenn and cried with you when you didn’t get accepted. I felt your pain when Aria did not believe that Ezra was dangerous. I related to you and the fire in your eyes as you spent hours searching and searching for clues that would lead to you A throughout all 7 seasons.For the past 7 years, I cried with you, I laughed with you, and searched for answers with you. I was proud to say that Spencer Hastings was my alter-ego. When you were shot in episode 7X10, I watched with suspense, as my heart raced. As an adoptee, I’ve seen it all along. I knew Mary was your mother.But, when I heard her say the words, it resonated with me and I finally understood our connection. You were the girl I always was, but too afraid to be. But, you were also the girl who didn’t know. You were the girl who lived my reality, down to being that LDA that nobody quite understands.
Consuming myself in the mystery of A and your family’s involvement was a means to exploring my own family’s well kept and haunting secrets. There were days that I searched endlessly for theories that would provide the perfectly tied up answer to A and his or her motives. I did this because I hoped there was a master theory to my own life. That there would be a perfect answer tied up in a bow as to why so many secrets.Your life allowed me to glamorize secrets and lies. But, as I watched Mary hold you on the night you got shot, I came face to face with the answer to the riddle that is both our lives. People lie because they afraid. People treat you as lesser than because they are intimated and uncomfortable with what is different. There was no greater mystery or explanation. But, coming face to face with the harsh reality that this was the truth and there was no episode that would reverse all the pain and the sorrow by somehow tying up a series of events, was an experience that drew me to tears. For the first time, I didn’t hide behind my pain through a TV show with shocking revelations. I came face to face with the grief I had been living with, but never expressed. The grief of being treated poorly by some, lied to by others, and had secrets kept from me from the people I trusted the most. Thank you for allowing me to grieve with you. Thank you for allowing me to see the person I always was, but was too afraid to be.
As the show comes to an end, Spencer Hastings remains in Rosewood, a place that I can’t access or reach, but remains in my heart.