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How Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ Taught Me to Look at My Return to Campus Differently

I know I might be a bit late on the Inside Out train (no pun intended), but the lessons conveyed in the story reminded me a lot of returning to university and how the difficult year we all endured brought us to where we are now.

Without writing any spoilers, the story starts with a young girl, Riley, moving from her beloved home in Minnesota to busy San Francisco. We follow the story through her personified emotions: Disgust, Fear, Anger, Sadness, and finally Joy. Over the course of the movie, the importance of sadness becomes apparent as we grow and change. This made me think a lot about this past year and being away from school.

Being home was a mixture of amazingness, loneliness, and mundaneness, as spending time with family was cherished, missing friends was hollowing, and being bored was common. However, when I returned to campus this fall with a vaccine in my system and a great set of classes in my schedule, I felt joy, but a different kind of joy. It wasn’t the type of happiness when you are content, but the happiness that coincides with gratitude, nostalgia and belonging. I know I am inclined to act like the repetitiveness of last year was less taxing than it in fact was, but compared to where I am now, at school, I look back and see a real difference.

In the movie, there is a trend of suppressing Sadness as, obviously, happiness is a preferred state. However, through watching the movie and with my experience of returning to school, it helped me understand why I had this new sense of happiness on campus.

In my opinion, it is healthier to accept that, yeah, last year was tough, rather than pushing those feelings down. In doing that and regarding the sad, the joy becomes greater and it’s easier to let things go.

I’ll say, too, that the transition to school has not been completely smooth. I am still adjusting in more ways than I can say concisely, but I still have sense of joy, which is how I know the benefits outweigh the costs. As I enter my final year of university (which is insane), I am glad I am able to recognize why I feel this way. If you have not had the chance to watch Inside Out, I highly encourage you to do so!

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Elizabeth Webler

U Mass Amherst '22

Elizabeth studies philosophy, political science, and communications at UMass Amherst. Favorite topics to write about include politics, personal growth, and current events. She loves reading, watching SNL and exercising in her free time!
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