“Inside Out” is a movie that my kids can’t stop talking about. Even now, months since we’ve watched it, my kids are still processing it and even requested a copy as a Christmas gift. My kids never ask to buy movies let alone go on about them weeks later. They are still talking about the tears they cried.
I have to ask myself what was unlocked in the hearts of my TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) that has them still captivated months later?
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, do yourself a favor and watch it, even if you are an adult. This movie is for all generations as it deals with something that no matter what our age, we often need help in processing: our emotions.
It is the story of a girl, Riley, and the emotions that are living inside her head. Sadness, Joy, Fear, Anger and Disgust are personified as you watch the inner workings of her brain and these feelings come to life. Riley has a happily “normal” and very stable life, growing up in the same town and house. Most of her memories are tinted with “Joy”. “Sadness” rarely plays a part in her childhood and is pushed to the side to make room for the prevailing “Joy”.
Life is relatively easy for Riley until she moves across the country to a new state, new house, new school and a whole new life. Life as she knows it is uprooted, lost and unfamiliar. In the midst of the move, she seems to also lose herself. Suddenly even her joyful memories are all tinged with sadness because they represent what is far away and lost. Sadness and anger begin to take center stage in her brain and joy is seemingly lost forever. Resolution comes when Joy and Sadness realize they can co-exist and that it is ok to be joyful and sad at the same time.
The ability to grieve allows “Joy” to be released. When Riley is keeping all her pain inside, pretending everything is OK, even though her world is falling apart, then sadness drowns out the joy. When she realizes that the precious memories of all she has left behind are still joyful, even if she misses them and is sad, then she is set free to embrace life.
This truth is what connected to the hearts of my Third Culture Kids. My kids have left grandparents, cousins and loved ones to live a life miles away in another country and culture. This movie connected to their hearts because it gave them permission to talk about the joy and pain of their losses.
On the way home in the car from the movie theater, I asked them, “do you ever feel joy and sadness at the same time?”
They immediately began talking about America and family there. When they think about the fun times they had in the US, they also feel a sadness. When they recall memories of building a snowman with grandma, learning to play baseball with grandpa, going to camp with cousins, celebrating birthdays with aunts and uncles, they are full of joy, yet also sadness.
These were some of my Third-Culture Kids’ comments:
“It’s sad because you miss them so much, but happy because it was so fun.”
“I want to go to America to live, but if I went there, I would miss my friends here (in South Africa).”
“When I am visiting America, it is great, but I also miss my friends in South Africa”.
Joy and pain, pain and joy intermingle and interwoven and it is ok. It is ok to grieve the losses from our home country, the family we miss and long to be with. Yet it is ok to feel at home in our new land and love the people here even as our hearts long for loved ones far away.
This is a constant reality of all who have moved far from “home” and a very unique reality to Third Culture Kids. It is even my reality as one who lives overseas. I am freed again to acknowledge my own grief, the things that I leave behind, and know it is Ok to embrace both the Joy and Sadness at the same time.
If you know a TCK, go watch it with them and weep and laugh and realize that without the pain, the joy would not be as sweet. Talk about the joys and sadness they carry and allow them to express them to you afresh. Allow this movie to unlock your heart and the heart of your TCK. It is in grieving our losses that we are able to receive the gift of joy.