there’s no wrong way to tell a great story

I came home on a high. I loved my Pixar ball, I loved my experiences at the Disney parks, I’d had a wonderful time with my family, and I was so excited to be home sweet home. I was also rushing to get back to life, because I had a full weekend of work ahead and there was pretty much zero time to settle and make sense of it all.

But as I unpacked my bag filled with Disney maps and coloring books and Pixar ball pens, repacking it with “Women Who Run With the Wolves,” a journal, and my western hat, I became overly aware of the juxtaposition in front of me.

What was I going to do? What, exactly, were the feelings that this trip had instilled in me, and what did they mean for my writing, for my work, for my indistinct “brand”? I like things that fit together, and none of this would do. I felt like I was lying to two distinct parts of myself, trying to will one over the other. And I didn’t have the time or space I needed to make it feel right inside.

I did my best to reflect:

At Disneyland, I’d been witness to an incredible fireworks and visual imagery show. As the songs of my childhood played, images took over the castle and the buildings on Main Street in a truly visceral performance that engulfed all those watching. I used to laugh whenever “Let It Go” played – little girls would outstretch their arms and begin belting at the top of their lungs. But this time, there actually weren’t even any little girls around. The song started and fake snow began falling from above. I had chills. I had tears. I was right there, in that moment, realizing that the power of these songs – the power of these films – was not just make-believe.

And it occurred to me:

There are parts of our lives that feel too good to be true. Maybe it’s our job, our relationships, our friendships, our families, our realization that after all this time, we’re still believers in magic. There may not be heroic princesses or evil octopus villains out to get us, but our lives are still series of ups and downs that hopefully result in our own personal happily ever afters. And standing there, in that moment, I was able to take all of that in. In a way, it doesn’t feel right that things have somehow gone right. Life’s supposed to be miserable….isn’t it?

I realized my increasingly fond memories of Disneyland made me uncomfortable because it was going to be hard to convince anyone in my “real life” that I wasn’t just being some kind of kid. That I was developing a matured sense of all this – something worth sharing, something worth trying to explain, something worth listening to.

You see, in the literary world, it’s easy to feel like your words aren’t “good enough” to be appreciated. Certain kinds of writing are looked down on, while others are held to greater acclaim. Personally, I’ve always wanted to be understood, and to do that, I’ve learned to write like we’re sitting down and having a solid conversation. (I’m pretty sure I’m not very capable of writing anything on Shakespeare’s level, anyways.) I’ve always wanted to be approachable, real world, and honest. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with speaking from a more elevated place; it’s just not “me”.

But what is wrong is looking down on those who don’t write to a certain standard. Because the way I see it, it’s not about how we’re writing, or even exactly what we’re writing about – it’s about what we’re communicating, and how we’re going to make you believe it, too.

Which is what Disney does. Which is why Disney is important – no matter how “intended for children” it may be.

The thing is, I think that while we’re #adulting, we begin to believe that feeling any investment in a child’s fairy tale is “dumb” or “unrealistic”. They’re full of bright colors, sing-along songs, and happily ever afters. And by the time we’ve grown up, we realize that this is most often not actually the case. So we blind ourselves to anything deeper. We keep a safe distance.

We allow for that momentary nostalgic uplift while we watch a talking cowboy doll interact with a plastic space ranger, once it’s over, we know we’re driving right back into the traffic and the busyness of our everyday lives. But we’re no longer eating the happy meals that include a cheap plastic memory of that film, we know we won’t look professional if we show up to work wearing a t-shirt with “Pizza Planet” strewn across the front, and there are more pressing and serious issues to be discussed over cocktails. Relishing in the fairy tales seems childish, immature, and unnecessary.

There are a number of esteemed novels we should be reading at the bar while discussing what insane thing Trump did today, anyways.

I’m not saying all this to reverse-shame anyone who loves a good piece of high-echelon art. Those works are important, valid, and necessary. And we all need balance. But we also need to be honest with ourselves about what brings us joy. And if that’s Toy Story 4 – then we should be friends!

You don’t need to sit in your room and play with dolls to get something out of the importance of these characters. But you do need to listen, and not feel bad for doing so.

Take The Incredibles 2, for instance. That movie is a work of feminist ideology — I’m sure of it. And the Star Wars films, which for whatever reason have become an acceptable adulthood addiction, are working to put more key female characters into roles of power. Pocahontas is a badass symbol for equality, acceptance, and love. And the new Bo Peep of Toy Story 4 traded her statuesque position and petticoats for something more daring, something more unknown, and something that deserves and commands attention.

The Wild Woman that I believe in – in film, story, or real life – lives at her own pace. She’s a nerd. She’s genuine. She’s got flaws on her face. She’s a dreamer, a wisher, a constant curious cat. She’s not using crystals as a business tactic – she just likes to look at them because they’re pretty and they make her feel good. My Wild Woman is unabashedly herself – she isn’t consumed with trends or popularity or making money from her art. She is constantly changing, finding new passions, and working through the way they work in her life. She’s not “too busy,” even if she does get overwhelmed sometimes. She believes in the ebbs and flows of life. She believes in mistakes, accessibility, and imperfection. And she loves a good story, no matter what judgement others seek to place on it.

Of course, I know we can’t all live our lives like children every day. There’s a time and place for everything. That’s why I have a little green alien keychain hanging from my Kate Spade work tote. We shouldn’t be afraid to love the things that make us happy, the things that remind us what it’s like to play and dream and imagine and laugh. We can talk politics later.

But only after we talk about Princess Power songs.