Lisa Lo Paro
May 15, 2015 8:00 am

It’s been 8 years to the day since Gilmore Girls aired its last episode ever. We laughed, we cried, we cried hard, and we all learned a thing or two about life from Rory and her mom. To commemorate the show that lives on in our hearts and on our Netflix queue, we’re looking back at all the things Rory learned (and taught us) the hard way. 

I watched Gilmore Girls from the age of nine until it ended when I was 16. I grew up with the image of Rory Gilmore as the ultimate woman, and she inspired me to be like her: bookish, confident, smart and beautiful. She was like my unerring older sister, constantly showing me how to act sophisticated and, somehow, always perfect. I didn’t only admire Rory Gilmore, I wanted to be exactly like her, the hair and everything. She had everything figured out: nothing was going to get the best of her. I was 13 or 14 when Rory started to grow up, and my 13-year-old self was reeling while watching her make some terrible choices.

I watched while Rory slept with the married Dean, while she fell for the bad-boy Logan, stole a boat, dropped out of school, and started to put her boyfriend’s needs before her own. I was young when Rory Gilmore started to grow up right before my eyes, and I was profoundly uncomfortable, as a young teen, with the choices Rory was making. What happened to the gutsy, confident Rory Gilmore I used to know? Who was this girl who stole bottles of champagne and wore tweed like her grandmother? My teenage self was not happy.

That was, until I also grew up.

Watching Rory’s struggle into adulthood is so much more powerful to me now as a grown woman who has faced so many of the same obstacles. As much as I loved her when she was in high school, acting perfect all of the time, I loved her even more when she got older and had to stumble a few times to get it right.

I think Rory’s development from an innocent, seemingly perfect teenager into a complex, flawed woman is a prime reason why women and girls need to see complex female characters in their movies, books and shows. I was convinced when I was younger that I had to be perfect like Rory. As she grew up, it took me a long time to realize that she wasn’t perfect, and that I shouldn’t be expected to be either. I admire Rory so much more for stumbling and falling, because she always got back up and stayed true to who she was, lapses in faith and questionable choices included. We all make bad decisions and mistakes, but Rory was there to tell me that it was all going to be OK. She did it first—and she did it all wearing Anthropologie. Just saying.

Instead of being aghast when Rory slept with Dean, when I was older, I sympathized with a girl who was caught up in her feelings for her ex, and let herself believe him when he said his marriage was over. I stopped judging her when she repeatedly got back together with the deeply flawed Logan, and started to empathize with a girl who acts like the rest of us do: sometimes making poor choices and acting with her emotions, not her brain.

Rory’s good heart constantly caused her to put her boyfriend’s desires before her own, but I stopped thinking about it negatively. Her complexity as a woman is so much more resonant because she tries and fails a few times before she gets it right. And who could forget that awesome moment when Logan flies to South Carolina to see her, and she makes him wait outside? And she doesn’t even get him a piece of cake.

When I watch Rory lose faith in herself and drop out of Yale, I’m reminded of the little flecks of self-doubt so many women experience every day in our careers and relationships. Rory melted down because she’s not as perfect as I always assumed, but her tenacity and confidence win out in the end, and her “comeback” is more inspiring considering what she overcame. In college, I felt much like Rory did: disillusioned and lost, and I finally understood that Rory’s story created a narrative for me to understand my own life experiences. I loved her even more.

And before anyone asks, I completely agreed with her decision to reject Logan’s proposal and live single as she started her post-grad life. Hear, hear Rory!

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