On Saturday, I had the most emotional experience I've ever had in a movie theater. Yeah, I'm sure everyone you know and their step-son has told you that they cried when they saw Toy Story 3. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since then and I decided I'd be doing myself an injustice by not publishing these thoughts.
I was four years old when the orignal Toy Story was released theatrically and I do remember going to see it in Logan with my grandparents, aunt, and uncle (neither of whom were married yet, how's that for weird?). I lived in Provo at the time. Soon after the movie was released on VHS (we actually had it on Laser Disk) my family moved to Farmington to be closer to my father's new workplace. I watched that film everyday and I found a lot of solace in the fact that Andy and I were almost the same age and going through very much the same thing. I remember sneaking up to my bedroom and slowly pushing the door open, trying to catch my toys doing things while I wasn't looking. I thought my parents were evil for making us move. I was not ok with leaving the neighborhood we lived in or the friends I had made there. There was too much to leave behind.
Fast foward five years. My age has doubled and I live in Farmington. I always feel like I have nothing to add to conversations about "the awkward phase" because I honestly feel like my entire life has been one, giant, awakward phase. I don't say this to be amusing, to pity myself, or to attempt to appear humble, I honestly have been like a pre-pubescent teenager my whole life. I've never really had a best friend. Occasionally kids from the neighborhood would want to come over and play with me but I never, not once, had the desire to call anyone else. I remember being "bored" a lot. I would get sick of computer games, I would get sick of reading books, and I would get sick of my brothers. I spent a lot of time thinking really hard and trying to come up with something to do to occupy my time. Something fun. When I thought really hard, I could feel what this fun was supposed to feel like but there was never an activity associated. I could see what the feeling felt like, if that makes sense. I could see colors. I wish I could tell eight year old me just how imaginative and creative he really was.
I'm 9, and Toy Story 2 is released. I remember when it came out on VHS (by then, I was almost 10) and people at church said they'd watched it 5 times in one day. I remember my older brother had a frined over and they were watching Toy Story 2 downstairs, and I was upstairs in my room. Usually when I had these "thinking-sessions" trying to find something fun to do, I ended up picking up my toys and playing with them. I'd create the things I felt with them; whether that was sculpting them, throwing them, or giving them names and situations. My brother and his friend came upstairs and caught me playing with them. As sad as it is to say, I was way too old to be playing with these toys. I was absolutely humiliated. I'd still desperately want to play with them and create the visions I had, but I was too old and I'd rather not feel like I did the time I was caught.
I never really recaptured that same creativity or imagination until my senior year in high school. There was one really big, year-long experience that was responsible for that. To my surprise, I was suddenly able to connect with people. Sure I had friends along the way, but no one really close. No best friend. My creativity was always my best friend and my creativity was due to my inner-child. Eight year old Jon is my best friend and he is smarter than I will ever be. Being in touch with this inner-child allowed me to realize just how important other people are in my life and how my creative inner-child can have fun, but he can have twice the fun when he experiences and shares it with others.
But then it ended.
I go through my first year of college almost repeating the same social pattern I went through in high school. Going from awkward and lonely, to imaginative, full of life, and surrounded by people that care.
Stop reading now if you haven't seen Toy Story 3
Now I'm home for the summer. I get emotional just watching the trailer for Toy Story 3. I knew going into it that I would love it, but I wasn't prepared for what I experienced. It has now been 11 years since Toy Story 2 and Andy and I are yet again going through the same thing, this time I'm a year ahead of him. I know what's in store for him. He's leaving for college. My heart was breaking throughout the whole thing. Andy's toys represent so many things. They're not just his beloved play-things, they're the people he loves, they're what he's known his whole life, they're his inner-child. These toys want to be there for him, despite the fact that he doesn't use them anymore. They cannot prevent Andy from leaving, but they still want to be in a place where he can come back to them. Andy tries to put them in the attic for storage and they are accidentally donated to a day-care. They valiantly return just before Andy leaves. He's what's most important to them.
I realized how selfish I can be as a person watching this movie. So many experiences and so many people have made me who I am and I've left them in the dust. My inner-child isn't just my own creativity and imagination, it's those I've shared it with. I think I've been too hasty to put people into the attic. I shove them away and then run off knowing that I'll find a new adventure and I don't need them at the time being and that they'll be waiting for me when I need them and come back. But then, when I return and they're nowhere to be found, I get upset that they aren't there for me.
At the end of the movie, instead of putting his toys in the attic, Andy gives them to another little girl who will take good care of them and has an imagination just like his. He even gives her Woody, whom he originally planned on taking to college (probably to just sit on a shelf) with him. This is the part of the movie that really got to me and quite apparently everyone else in the theater. The tears were falling for me when Andy picked up the toys and showed Bonnie how to play with them, reliving his most precious childhood memories. I was trying not to sob as he got in his car and Bonnie waved Woody's hand at Andy just before he drives off. Andy lets out a little bit of a gasp. A realization, with a little bit of pain associated with it. Woody and the gang watch the car drive off and Woody says "so long, partner" his final farewell to his owner. Both realize that a chapter in their lives is over and though the bond between them will never cease, they are finished with each other and must be there for someone else.
This hurt. But it hurt so good. Andy and Woody really taught me a lesson there. It should hurt. I thought I knew how to let go, but only partially. You can't just lock people away in your attic and pull them out whenever you need them. Just as you have to move on with your life, they have to move on with theirs. After they're done being there for you and making you a better person, they have to go on to someone else. It doesn't have to be goodbye forever, but you can't selfishly restrict someone else's life for your own security. You don't just let them go, they let you go. The toys have to have a different owner. They do no good when they're sitting in a dusty, dark, empty attic...wating for you.
To my toys/friends,
I'm sorry if I expect too much of you. And I'm sorry if I've ever put you in the attic. Nobody really belongs to me and it's wrong for me to expect that you'll be there for me when I am in no way, there for you. When I move on, I'll give you space to move on as well. Just as I'm entitled to "go to college" you're entitled to "a new owner" that will love you and care for you when I no longer can. I will do everything in my power to stay young and keep you with me and play with you for as long as I can.