Thursday, January 17, 2013

Disney for Your Twenties

First of all, completely inspired by this awesome tumblr.

Secondly, I know it's been a long while since I've last blogged. I'm trying to come up with a direction for this thing, instead of just me talking about whatever's in my head. So until I get that sorted out, posts will probably be more sporadic.

But anyhow, you know how it was growing up on Disney? So many people joke about how Disney lied to them, how we all thought we'd fall in love in three days when we were sixteen, how we all thought we'd turn out to be someone unbelievably special and save the kingdom (even if that kingdom is our bank account or our family or, I don't know, Idaho), how we all envisioned the hard work being sped through via musical number (what, you didn't picture that?).

That song is just so catchy.

But then we grew up and learned that it wouldn't be so easy. The thing that I've noticed is, there were other fairy tales we were told, mostly in High School and maybe the early years of college, which somehow managed to convince us that the work would be hard and thankless, and we'd mess up a lot... but if we got good grades and made those connections, we WOULD get what we always wanted, darn it! Because everyone ELSE in the literature class is a big phony who would end up serving coffee or working for the man, but not US! Because WE were in this for the long haul!

But then, and by then I mean now, we realized that maybe we were going to spend a few years serving fries with that, surfing procrastinating sites on our internship time, or making customer service phone calls, and it wasn't because we were insincere in our dreams or even unsuccessful or untalented.

It's just that, well, we've got to start somewhere. We've got to pay our dues. Even when it seems like the meanest, least talented person in our sculpture class got that huge commission because they've got a rich uncle. Why didn't THEY have to pay their dues?

I can only shrug. As I type this during my lunch break at my internship. Right before I go back to my apartment and do my laundry and obsess over my grad school tuition and whether or not I'm somehow disappointing people because I DIDN'T do that big solo art show or publish my novel or start a web comic or get married at twenty-one or make Aliyah right out of college or somehow change the world.

At various points I wanted to do all of those things, and I haven't.


I am twenty-four years old, at a place and location I never predicted or particularly wanted for myself. But you know what? I really can't complain. I'm still using my little bits of spare time to come up with new art pieces (the Kohelet piece is back from the framer's, by the way).

I still doodle little cartoons and wonder if they would make someone on the internet laugh. I still imagine making that half-a-story pan out into a book. I still think about what I might do someday. The only  difference is that I've got less of a deadline now, and more realistic expectations, because I acknowledge they might NOT happen, and that would actually be (mostly) okay. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying.

I like this weird sort of semi-optimistic realism I've been experimenting with lately. Small goals. Finish one project at a time, get through one week at a time, try to do the right thing whenever I can, and try not to tick people off too much (although sometimes one of those last two precludes the other. REALITY BITES.).

And oddly, the idea of difficult choices is something the fairy tales were right about. I can't think of a (good) Disney movie where the protagonist just coasted by without at one point feeling trapped (I said GOOD Disney movie. And I happen to dislike the Little Mermaid, so please don't start with that one. Seriously, she suffers NO CONSEQUENCES for messing things up for everyone else. NONE. No. Lessons. Learned! Other than that you should give up your voice for a man and that a deal with the devil never hurts).

Aladdin had to be the Prince everyone wanted or admit being himself. Simba had to live carefree and let others suffer or face both his past and his uncle. Mulan had to risk her safety and reputation or her father's. Belle had to choose between giving up her dreams of seeing the world and her father's freedom. Hercules had to choose between immortality and a girl with seemingly no internal organs.

And these struggles, much more so than the happy endings and catchy tunes, made these movies relatable. It's at that moment where Mulan is abandoned by her troops on the mountainside or Aladdin's magic clothes are zapped away, or Scar forces Simba to confess his past where I pause and think, wow, well-drawn protagonist. I'm really rooting for you. Everything stinks for you. This is the bottom of the barrel on your journey. Everyone hates you and the bad guy is laughing and your little animal sidekick's jokes are at their corniest. And you tried so hard to make it work. You were so sincere in your efforts.

But this is Disney, so I know you're going to pick yourself up and save the kingdom. You just need to admit you're just a street rat, or save the emperor as (gasp!) a girl, or have a mandrill hit you with a stick.

It all starts with that common thread of facing reality and stepping forward anyway, shaking hands, hugging sidekicks who don't generally hug, and making the best of what you've got right now.

I think that's the key. Making the best of what we've got right now instead of dwelling on what could have happened if we hadn't gotten stabbed by a Hun or flattened by an Ionic column. And it starts with SEEING what we've got right now. We've got more than we think we do.

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