There is a lot to be said about Dawson's Creek, but one of the questions that ruled my youth (before the show ended) was: Who will Joey Potter choose? Dawson? Or Pacey? Why was I so consumed with this question? Why did it bother me so much? Of course, I now have the answer of who: Pacey. But now my question is why? No, not why did she choose Pacey (obvious choice), but why do I care so much? I think it's because Joey Potter taught me how to be in love. More importantly, she taught me how to take risks in love.
Joey Potter was a wonderful little ball of angst and sarcasm, but underneath that tough exterior she was just a teenage girl who was in love with her best friend. Show of hands? Have you been there? I have. More than once. But Joey Potter made it okay. As an insecure teenager, I felt like no boy saw me as anything more than the pal. I was the friend they could talk to about the pretty girls who they actually liked. This was hard to grasp when you were already dealing with all the insecurities that come with being a young woman. But Joey Potter did it. She was beautiful, funny, intelligent, witty, and steadfast. But, she was also insecure. We see all of this right away when we meet Jen. Joey hates her because she is jealous of her and her affect on Dawson. Jen is the girl she will never be. We all had a Jen in our lives. Joey was relatable and real. This is so important for women of all ages because it opens our eyes. We can't see ourselves clearly, and that's why we count on our friends to tell us the truth. We can't see that we are just as incredible and beautiful as the woman we are jealous of, and we can't see that our insecurities are mostly false. That's when our friends come in to give us a boost, and Joey is that friend on a larger scale. As a young woman, I watched Joey and thought "She's crazy. How can she not know how amazing she is?" Then I thought, "Wait, is that me? Am I insecure for no reason? Am I crazy too?"
The answer is yes. Okay, I wasn't crazy, I was just a teenager. They are essentially the same thing. I was letting my insecurities get in the way in the same way as Joey. And while I couldn't control her destiny by screaming at the television, I could certainly control my own. So how did this teach me to take risks in love? I'm glad you asked.
Because life isn't fair, neither is love. We don't choose who we love or when we love them. Dawson was the perfect choice for Joey, and she did really love him at one point. But did that mean he was her forever love? Her soulmate? Her penguin?
We all have a love like this in our life. A love that is comfortable, a love that is safe. But for some reason, it doesn't fit. It's a favorite coat that keeps us warm, but is slightly tight in the arms. It fits enough, but it's not the best, but it's close. Do we stay with this coat? Or do we take a risk to find the perfect fit?
Joey took both roads in the series and showed the consequences. Risk One: She dumped Dawson, her perfect boyfriend, because she knew that she lost herself. This was such an important lesson because it showed us that perfect relationships don't exist and how easy it is to get sucked into a relationship and forget yourself. She knew something wasn't right, and she took a huge risk to fix it for herself. And it turned out fine. Eventually.
She stuck with Dawson when it wasn't right, and she tried again and again and again after each explosion. She had to. He was her first love. The love that made sense on paper. We groaned every time they got back together, but we also understood it. I saw Joey try to make something work that would never work. I saw the consequences. It gave me the courage to split with my Dawson. The man everyone thought I should be with. The man who was perfect on paper. I really did love him at one point, but it wasn't right. I could have tried, but Joey gave me an alternative.
Enter: Pacey. This was a risk for a ton of reasons, but with great risk comes great reward. Pacey pushed Joey. He loved her for who she was, but more importantly; he loved her for what she could be. He saw all her potential and encouraged her to grow. He loved her the way that we all want to be loved. Fiercely and unconditionally. Okay, it's just a TV show, but I know that love exists. And not just with relationships, but also with friendships. It's so important to believe that there are people out there who will love and support us, even if we don't have it right now.
Most importantly: Joey showed me that it was okay to figure out yourself first and your relationship second. She didn't end up with Pacey until the very end, and she accomplished a lot before then. She went to Worthington, she dated others, she found herself, she found a meaningful career, and she finally went to Paris. Being in your twenties feels like a race. We all race to find the perfect relationship, because we don't want to be the last one standing. Alone. Joey showed me that it was okay to calm down and let love come to you. And this is big, because waiting is HARD. But Joey Potter taught me how to jump, when to jump, and when not to jump in all matters of the heart.