So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

If, like me, you’ve spent the last week or so utterly captivated by The Queen’s Gambit to the point where you’ve stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish it, you’re in good company.

It feels like the whole world is currently raving about this show, and to anyone who hasn’t yet discovered the recent gem on Netflix—yes, it’s about chess. But also, it’s not at all about chess. And, no, it is definitely not boring, and no, you don’t have to know a thing about the game to fall head-over-heels in love with the protagonist and her story.

Titled after one of the oldest openings in the history of chess, the Netflix original is based on a 1983 novel by Walter Trevis and set during the Cold War era of the mid-1950s into the late-1960s. Without giving away too much of, the period drama follows Kentucky chess prodigy, Beth Harmon, as she makes her journey from 8-year-old orphan to world champion.

Now, before I go any further, there are some pretty big spoilers below, so if you think you’ll want to watch it for yourself, put those kids to bed early tonight and come back in the morning after you’ve binged the entire thing.

I’m just kidding . . . maybe.

Honestly, the most amazing thing about this drama is that almost everyone can find something from it that resonates with them—from brilliant chess strategy to the struggle of addiction and mental illness, to what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated sport, to the loneliness of genius, to the pursuit of greatness at all costs.

Not only that, but I was completely invested in the characters, who were all masterfully portrayed by a cast of familiar faces, and entranced by the elaborate set design, gorgeous wardrobe choices, and impressive filmography.

But what truly spoke most to my mama heart—and even broke it at times—was Beth’s longing for a mother figure in her life and how deeply you root for her to overcome the tragedy of her past and triumph over her inner demons.

Early on in the series, you discover that Beth is orphaned when her mother, Alice, dies tragically in an accident that somehow leaves her only daughter unscathed. As the show progresses, the circumstances behind Alice’s death are gradually revealed through a series of flashbacks, and the extent of both her own genius and mental illness becomes painfully clear.

RELATED: To the Mother Fighting For Her Mental Health: Keep Going, Your Babies Need You

In a devastating scene that occurs in the final episode, you learn that right before the accident, Alice tells Beth she is a “rounding error,” reducing her own daughter to a mathematical problem that has to be fixed.

It was at this point I found myself literally sobbing on my couch as my heart split in two and I thought of the immense burden placed on this child, a weight she would carry for the rest of her life. Beth’s feelings of abandonment are tangible, and despite her attempts to mask her emotions and numb herself with literal tranquilization, you can’t help but want to scoop her 8-year-old frame into an enormous hug and tell her how much she is worthy and loved.

Later, Beth is left to cope with the loss of another flawed maternal figure—her adoptive mother, Alma Wheatley, who shows genuine affection and concern for her, but ultimately succumbs to her own demons as well. “I don’t know why my body is so intent on sabotaging my brain, when my brain is perfectly capable of sabotaging itself,” Alma muses in one scene.

This show offers so much to reflect on, but the one thing that stood out to me over and over again throughout was a plain and simple notion—every child just wants to be loved.

They don’t need fame or fortune or lots of material things. They just need to feel safe and secure and wanted by the people who are meant to love them unconditionally.

Mental illness is also the most devious thief, and it is children who are so often robbed and left to pick up the pieces. This made the show absolutely excruciating to watch at times—on one hand, it’s almost unbearable to see Beth spiral into addiction and refuse to seek help, but on the other, you can understand exactly why she attempts to drown her sadness in pills, alcohol, and of course, an obsession with chess.

RELATED: I Had a Good Job, a Great Life—And an Opioid Addiction

“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful,” she explains during an interview with a reporter from Life Magazine in one episode. “It was the board I noticed first. It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it. I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

Anya Taylor-Joy, the incredibly talented actress who plays Beth, did an interview with Refinery29 where she talks more about Beth’s struggles: “When you feel the loneliest, it’s usually because you can’t see past the end of your own nose,” she says.

“You’re so wrapped up in your head that you’re convinced there’s nobody out there on the edge with you. But everyone’s out there on the edge with you,” she continues. “If you open your gaze a little bit more, you’ll see that there are people who are willing to offer you a hand and want to be there to support you.” 

Sure enough, Beth manages to create a circle of devoted friends—both in the chess world and outside of it—who respect, admire, and love her, and oh, do they show up for her when it truly matters. These people manage to pull her back from the depths of relapse, and with their help, she is able to finally reach her full potential.

Beth’s story is one of redemption—of discovering your worth, conquering your demons, and making your own family with the people who care about you. In the end, it is self-acceptance and the acceptance of help from others that gives Beth the strength to prevail, both on the chessboard and in life.

Taylor-Joy reflects on this, particularly as it relates to the final scene of the show, which was a beautiful and poignant way to say good bye—

“You have to make friends with yourself,” she says. “You have to find a home within yourself. Otherwise, how on Earth are you supposed to accept love from other people if you won’t even give it to yourself?”

The Queen’s Gambit left a deep and lasting impression on me that I won’t soon forget. I gained a whole new appreciation for the artistry and strategy of chess, and my eyes were opened to the challenges for women in a sport that remains dominated primarily by men. I witnessed the brutal reality of addiction and marveled at the skill and obsession of genius.

But my heart ached first and foremost for the motherless girl who begins her journey lost and alone, but ultimately discovers a force far more powerful than loneliness—an uncompromising love for herself.

Emily Solberg

Emily Solberg is a soldier, military spouse, mom of two, and fierce advocate of women supporting women. The goal of her writing is to help others feel less alone in their parenting journeys, and she isn’t afraid to share the hard parts of her own. You can find more from her over on Facebook and Instagram at Shower Arguments with Emily Solberg.

A Mother/Daughter Bond Should Be Unbreakable, but Sometimes It Isn’t

In: Grown Children, Living
Frowning woman holding phone

It’s OK to grieve your absent parents while they’re still alive. I see so many articles or well-meaning posts from people who had beautiful relationships with their parents and are now grieving their loss. It’s amazing to read about such incredible parent-child relationships, but it also usually comes with guilt for me. “Call your mom, I wish I still could.” Yeah, me too, I want to say. I stare at my phone, my finger hovering over her name, and sigh. I let the screen go black instead. My birth mother is alive and well but I chose to end my...

Keep Reading

My Grandma Doesn’t Remember Me but I Visit Anyway

In: Living
Elderly woman embracing young bride

Today I went to see my grandma in the memory care facility she now calls home. Visits now are nothing like they used to be at her house. There is no kitchen stocked with my favorite snacks or comfortable room of my own with a fold-out bed stacked with hand-sewn quilts. It’s just her, an armchair, and a twin-sized bed that creaks up and down with a remote control so she can be bathed and dressed in the optimal position. But her face lights up when she sees me and her small body relaxes into me when I hug her. ...

Keep Reading

“Yours From the First Moment I Saw You.” Read the Tributes To Olivia Newton-John That Have Us Tearing Up

In: News
Olivia Newton-John Instagram photo

“Tell me about it . . . stud.” I’ll never forget the iconic ending scene of “Grease” when the camera pans from the shocked face of John Travolta as bad-boy Danny Zuko to his high school sweetheart, Sandy, who has literally transformed from an innocent transfer student into a leather-clad cool chick, complete with massive perm and sky-high heels. In the starring role of one of the most successful movie musicals ever made, beauty icon Olivia Newton-John stole America’s heart and never looked back over the course of an awe-inspiring five-decade career, which included both movies and musical hits like...

Keep Reading

The Rollercoaster of Foster Care and Adoption

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother daughter photo on beach

After spending most of their childhoods in foster care, Addy and her brother Dominick had never been to a birthday party or down a water slide. They missed out on many childhood staples, but it was the least of their concerns. Addy was riddled with anxiety and panic attacks—crippled with fear that she would age out of the system before getting adopted. She carried a backpack full of anxiety fidgets to cope with her uncertain years in foster care. She had such a bad case of TMJ that the kids at school mocked her for adjusting her jaw every ten...

Keep Reading

While I Wait for Another Door to Open, I’ll Hold One For Someone Else

In: Faith, Living
Woman teaching another woman by computer

I’m waiting for another door. All my life, I’ve been told that when God closes one door, He opens another. And here I am, staring at the imminent end of the business I’ve built from nothing. Closing down what I started up from sheer willpower, too much caffeine, and the bold determination to work for myself. Scratching out what I made from scratch . . . and it feels horrible. God didn’t just close this door. He slammed it shut, boarded the whole thing up, and hammered the nails in where I cannot pry them open. Believe me. I’ve tried....

Keep Reading

The Pain of Loving an Addict and the Power of Love

In: Living
Couple embracing in hallway

Mental health is no joke. Addiction is no joke. In my experience, these things go hand in hand. People often turn to things like alcohol and drugs when they are looking for an escape from reality. And people with certain mental health struggles are more prone to addictions than people without. These behaviors are a cry for help. They are not attention seeking. They are not purposely trying to hurt the people in their life. They are saying in the only way they can they are drowning and they need a lifeboat. And it is hard on everyone involved. Having...

Keep Reading

Chrissy Teigen Announces She’s Pregnant With Rainbow Baby

In: Living, News
Chrissy Teigen pregnant

Hip, hip, hooray! “1 billion shots later . . . we have another on the way.” In a surprising, but much anticipated Instagram post, Chrissy Teigen delivered the exciting news: she and celebrity musician husband John Legend are officially expecting their third baby! Endeared to millions through her genuine and unfiltered approach to sharing her life on social media, Chrissy’s announcement was quickly met with an outpouring of love and support from fans, many of whom had been following since the model shared the absolutely devastating loss of her third pregnancy back in 2020. RELATED: Chrissy Teigen Opens Up About Her...

Keep Reading

Meeting the One Who Says “I Believe in You” Changes Everything

In: Living
Man and woman hold hands

“I want to major in journalism. I love writing. I want to be an author,” I said. “You can’t do that,” you said. “You’ll never make any money writing. You have to change your major,” you said. I heard the sad, sorrowful flutter of wings of a caged bird. And then silence.  Year after year, I allowed you to belittle me, to make me feel ashamed, and to see myself as unintelligent and worthless. When I was small, you felt big. I didn’t know any better because you were supposed to be a safe person. Unconditional love and support? Only...

Keep Reading

It’s Lonely Feeling Invisible

In: Friendship, Living
Woman standing in kitchen

I’ve never known what’s wrong with me. From such a young age, I’ve never had friends. I was never the girl who was invited to the birthday parties let alone the sleepover after the birthday party.  Now as an adult, I’m not the girl invited for drinks, moms’ nights out, play dates, or even to listen to a pyramid scheme.  RELATED: It’s Lonely Being the B-List Friend I’m not the coworker everyone loves. Or the classmate everyone envies because of her skill. I’m not making waves anywhere I go.  Not even with my own family. No aunt, uncle, cousin, or...

Keep Reading

I Left a Piece of My Heart in Room 208

In: Living, Motherhood
Classroom of empty desks, color photo

I walked down the hall, past the rows of bright orange lockers. Past the U.S. history classroom and the eighth-grade science room.  The next door was mine. Room 208. As I slipped the key into the lock, I noted the “Bring it on” poster my students fist bump on the way into the room (a fun class routine we started a few years ago). Without thinking, I softly kicked the door open as I turned the knob, knowing the door sticks when it’s hot. I walked inside, scanning the room, taking in objects that have been a part of my...

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.