“All Her Would-Haves are Our Opportunities”


“The only thing we have to remember is: all her would-haves are our real possibilities. All her would-haves are our opportunities. And the book’s a flame, a torch, we can light our own candles and take them and illuminate our hearts with the incandescence of her spirit.”

                                                           -Emma Thompson in a speech in the Anne Frank House, 2006

All her would-haves are our opportunities: if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. I visited the Anne Frank House whilst I was in Amsterdam and I am currently re-reading her diary.  The visit was a haunting experience. The part that affected me the most was walking past the actual bookcase that guarded the hidden entrance. To see the original books still standing there -unread for so many years and collecting dust! I lingered at the spot a little longer and just stared at them. I didn’t really know what to feel.

To think that I am blessed with this life simply because of the lucky chance that I was born where I was and when I was!  It is hard for my mind to comprehend.  In a way, I suppose I feel a strange sense of survivor’s guilt. There I was wandering through the beautiful canals and streets of Amsterdam while she was forced to hide behind a curtain. Why should she have been robbed of her youth and stripped of her dreams so that I would have the motivation to make the most of mine? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why was there not – and why is there still not – enough love in our world?

People always tell me that ‘life is unfair’, and I think I am starting to realize the truth in that more forcefully than ever.  It’s incredibly unfair that someone like Anne – so full of hopes and dreams – should have died before her life even had a chance to begin and yet here I am, the world at my fingertips, unable to make even the smallest dent in the world.  To think that I walked through her attic – her prison, her own form of hell! – as a ‘learning experience.’ An attempt to gain a better understanding of the horror of the world’s history when I will never, ever, ever, even come close to grasping the true reality of it.

Perhaps I had an even more emotional experience because I was in the midst of reading her diary. The confirmation of her existence – in knowing her deepest fears, thoughts, and dreams – made her as real to me as though I had known her in the flesh. And then having to see her faded name recorded in the death book, having to watch a video of her father and friend talk about her…the knowledge of her death hit me with the same impact as if I had just learned a dear friend of mine had passed away.

Out of all the things I wish I could’ve said to her, out of all the things I wanted to say to her, the only thing I could manage to write in the guest book at the end of the visit was ‘I love you.’

As I reflect back now, I know what I would say to her.  I would tell her that she is a hero. I would tell her that I admire her more than words can express and that I think she embodies all the qualities that people – young girls and boys, men and women – need in a role model. I would tell her that she is an inspiration, a bright light, and a shining example of what it means to be courageous and strong and beautiful – and that if ever have a child one day, I want that child to have the goodness so evident in Anne’s heart, reflected in his or hers.

My Favourite Anne Frank Quotes

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“Memories mean more to me than dresses.”

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

“I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

Thank you, Anne.

Kazandra Pangilinan

Kazandra is probably not that different from you. She eats, sleeps,and wonders about how to make the most of this life. This blog is dedicated to the trials and triumphs she has experienced in the process of growing up in her quest to find meaning, connection and happiness.

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