How “Toy Story 4” Helped Me Grieve

Before starting this post, I want to give some shout-outs:

To Ben, Nick, Lexie, Nathan, Angel, Noah, Ryan, Mycah: Thank you for being amazing fellow TCD student leaders. I am honored to have worked with you all. 

To Alyx, Lexie (again), Trinity and Devin: Thank you for your willingness to lead. I am so proud of you four. 

To Manon: Thanks for making us journal digitally for Acting 2. 

To Ryan (again): Thanks for letting me emotionally vomit on you about this movie. 

 

I’ve been avoiding watching “Toy Story 4” for a really long time. I thought that the third movie was perfect and the fact that they made a fourth one was just a cash grab. I love Pixar, but I did not go out of my way to watch this movie. In fact, I low-key boycotted it. I was irritated when the trailer dropped and refused to spend money on a ticket to see it in theaters. 

It’s a Thursday night, one of my only nights at home with my family since I work evening shifts in the midst of Covid-19. We decided that we would watch something in Disney+, but we were slightly indecisive. I had suggested “Lady and the Tramp” or “Toy Story 4,” and Dad was in a Pixar mood, so the toys won out. I don’t know what I threw out the movie I had been avoiding for so long, but we all sat down to see what it was all about. 

For some context, I’ve been working 32-38ish hour weeks at the grocery store the past three weeks instead of doing school and theatre full time like I used to before the pandemic hit. On top of this, I also teach five students music lessons and online art classes on occasion. Oh, I’m also planning my wedding that will hopefully still take place in August. There’s a lot happening, so I haven’t fully processed the grief I’ve had festering for a while. Now, I thought I had gone through my grieving process and that it was done and over. I wouldn’t deal with it again, right? I had sobbed when I left the dorm I had lived in for two years. I held onto Sweet Ben when we heard the news of our final show at Missouri Western being canceled. I took long, tear-filled walks on the days I got emails telling me every internship/job I had applied for post-graduation had been suspended until late 2020 or 2021. I had gotten it all out with several cries. The grieving process was something I could check off my list.  

 

Ha. Ha ha ha. Silly me for thinking the grief had passed. 

 

On the day I’m writing this, I slept through a Zoom meeting with my theatre honor society where we announced the new E-Board for next year, which set me off on a very long, emotional evening. I had taught for three hours that morning and spent another two hours on homework, so my brain was fried. A 20 minute nap turned into an hour and a half, which led to me missing the meeting and crying on the kitchen floor for about fifteen minutes before eating dinner. I was angry with myself for sleeping through something that I was in leadership for and had a terribly hard time getting to a point where I was not beating myself up. I was embarrassed and was angry that I had switched off my alarm for something I had been looking forward to that whole day. But you know what? It was a 15 minute meeting. It was not the end of the world. But for me, it was a “last” that I missed. (Wow, tearing up again while writing this.)

An hour after this mini-depressive episode, we started watching the movie. It was fun to understand the context of the memes that have been circling around for a while and geek out over the gorgeous animation. BUT HOLY COW WOW WOW WOW I DIDN’T EXPECT FOR THIS FILM TO RIP MY HEART OUT. 

Without trying to drop too many spoilers, this movie sums up exactly how I am feeling about leaving the undergrad years. Woody, who is the protagonist across all four of these movies, is trying desperately to fulfill his purpose of being a toy by taking care of all the people around him. In doing this though, he sometimes forces what he thinks is correct instead of letting things naturally play out. You can even see how exhausted it makes him, but he keeps pushing through because of his love for his fellow toys and his kid. 

MAJOR SPOILER COMING IN THE MOST VAGUE WAY I CAN POSSIBLY WRITE IT BUT IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY SPOILERS WHATSOEVER SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH! 

*****************In the end, a choice is made that shows that these films truly were Woody’s story, not Andy’s. It shows that leaders can move on from what/who they once loved to new stages of life that could be much more fulfilling, even though it is majorly bittersweet. There were so many moments in the third act of this movie that I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, this exactly how I am feeling about leaving school.” In the end, Woody got the best happy ending for him, even though it meant leaving his previous normal.************************

 

(Spoilers done)

 

In the midst of this surreal time, Ben and my two other E-Board members, Lexie and Nick, have been working hard to set up the up and coming leaders for success in this coming year. Three of the four of us are graduating, leaving Lexie with a brand new team of bright, talented and thoughtful leaders, all of whom were freshmen this past year. There was a lot of anxiety in the first few weeks of this mess of who was going to step up, but across our organizations for theatre and film, there is a rise of leaders who will carry on with the work the upperclassmen started. I have full confidence in the students who were voted into leadership and those who will continue to lead without the title. It has been a blessing to see the students I got the opportunity to love and pour into over the past few months step up to the plate, and I know they will be wonderful. 

Moving on is so hard. A year ago, the mega-scary-depressed version of me would have been relieved that the rest of the school year had been canceled, but now, it’s so hard to say good-bye because of how wonderful the last seven months have been. But I believe that while college was a great thing, I am moving on to an even better adventure. It doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye, but there is comfort in knowing that the things are being taken care of by some awesome people. Good leaders understand when they have trained other leaders that it’s okay for them to move on so that those new leaders can take the reins. I believe that the senior class helped raise up some awesome underclassmen this year. We can rest easy knowing that even better times are to come, even when things look uncertain. 

Thanks to “Toy Story 4,” I started to truly process my grief of my senior year being cut short. Is the process over? No, and it will probably take a long time to get through it. But now, I know that there’s at least one cowboy out there who understands the exact feelings I am wrestling with. If you haven’t watched this movie year, I highly suggest that you give this underrated film a watch. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a film I desperately needed in this weird time we know as April 2020. 

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

 

 

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