3 Powerful, if Heartbreaking, Lessons ‘The Glass Castle’ Offers Modern Women - Verily
We can all learn from Jeannette Wall's method of rising above her circumstances.

If you didn’t read the book, watching The Glass Castle, in theaters now, will tie your emotions into a knot and crown it with a bow. (If you did read the book, it probably still will, but you know what’s coming.) It’s a heartbreaking story based on Jeannette Walls’ bestselling 2005 memoir of the same name. Growing up with creative and freewheeling but negligent parents, Jeannette tells a story of her attempts to distance herself from their unhealthiness while appreciating the ingenuity they taught her, and ultimately seeking to make peace with them.

Her father, Rex, dreams of building a glass castle: a palace of windows, with a crystalline staircase and electricity-producing solar cells. Instead, the family hovers between their jalopy and a series of dilapidated homes because Rex would rather keep a bottle of whiskey than a job. What the Walls family lacks in cash, food, and indoor plumbing, they make up for in creativity, intelligence, and big dreams. Of course, without any sort of plan or follow-through, dreams fall flat.

Beyond their utter cluelessness—and neglect and abuse—Rex and Rose Mary, the mom, lack one thing essential for all successful people: goals, which as we know are the results-wielding part of dreams. Jeannette, on the other hand, is able to become successful, not only because she makes peace with her past, but also because she creates goals, to distance herself from where she is and to turn toward where she wants to be—something many of us, in varying degrees, can all learn from.

01. Financial Goals

Jeannette achieves her dream of leaving her dilapidated West Virginia town by babysitting, writing for the local paper, and saving every cent she earns in a piggy bank named Oz. Her father spends all his cash on whiskey and her mother can’t keep a teaching job, but because Jeannette tied her finances to a specific goal—moving to the Big Apple—she avoided putting money anywhere besides the piggy bank.

A survey by Bankrate last year found that just 37 percent of Americans have enough in savings to cover an unexpected $500 expense. Whether that’s you, or you simply have a new goal to strive for such as a big move or even a vacation, The Glass Castle provides the reasoning as to why following money managing tips and setting personal financial goals are a great start.

02. Career Goals

While Jeannette’s mom collects unsold paintings and her dad takes up gambling, Jeannette starts reporting at a Brooklyn newspaper and moves on to New York magazine and MSNBC. The difference between Jeanette and her parents? Jeannette doesn’t wait for opportunities to find her. Every time the family moves to a new place, Rose Mary proclaims that this could be the town where her painting career could finally take off. But she never tries to turn her art into a business. Meanwhile, Jeannette, an avid reader and an aspiring writer, writes first at her high school and local papers, followed by anywhere in New York City that will publish her.

Here again, the story speaks ever more strongly to the modern reader. Whether you’re choosing a career or learning to thrive by taking risks, setting career goals is a great way to start down the right path, even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do yet.

03. Relationship Goals

Despite his failures (and there are many), Rex and Jeannette share some beautiful moments: he takes her monster-hunting in the desert and offers her any star in the night sky (she opts for Venus because it’s brighter). But the entire Walls family struggles to connect in a consistently peaceful way. They endure constant stress, lacking basic necessities in the home. The time they spend together lacks quality because outside stressors prevent them from enjoying each other’s company; the absence of boundaries in other areas prohibits healthy interactions. Setting firm boundaries with your loved ones, something Jeannette learns to do as she gets older, counterintuitively strengthens your relationships and frees you both to love others and respect yourself.

A story of heartbreak and healing, The Glass Castle not only provokes thought, but also provides us with an important reminder: by setting goals and making steps to achieve them, the glittering castle doesn’t have to be a fragile dream—it can be a firm and beautiful reality. 

Photo via Collider