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Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Infinity and Beyond: The ups and downs

May 7, 2018

So, you’ve made it to the end of the semester, and summer is within reach. Looking back on the entire school year, you’ve probably experienced every emotion possible. You’ve felt the 2 a.m. anxiety while cramming for that big exam you had the next day, the anger over a grade you felt was unfair and the happiness of laugh-till- you-cry late nights with your best friends.

Let’s face it: trying to maintain a healthy balance of schoolwork, a social life and sleep is nearly impossible as a college student. To top it off, it seems like a million problems get thrown your way throughout each semester. The emotional roller coaster is inevitable.

It’s in our nature to try to handle those emotions in one of two ways-either by trying to be as happy and positive as possible or by venting. The truth is that neither of these is the wrong or right way to handle our feelings; we need a balance of both.

In Pixar’s Inside Out, we meet 11-year- old Riley Anderson as her family moves to San Francisco from Minnesota. More importantly, we meet the personified emotions inside Riley’s head-Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. The emotions operate a control panel that influences Riley’s actions, turning her day-to- day experiences into memories that are stored away in her long-term memory.

Joy serves as the leader of the five emotions as she tries her best to create the happiest memories possible for Riley, filling her head with hockey games and silly moments with her parents. In order to maintain those happy memories, she keeps Sadness far away from the control panel and Riley’s entirely-happy “core memories” as the defining moments in her life.

Riley struggles greatly to adapt to her new life in San Francisco, away from her home, her friends and her hockey team. When Sadness begins turning Riley’s happy memories into sad ones by touching them, things begin to take a turn for Riley, who cries in front of her class on her first day at her new school.

When Joy tries to get rid of the sad, core memory created from Riley’s incident in class, she knocks over the other core memories, and she, Sadness and the memories are sucked from the headquarters.

Anger, Fear and Disgust are left behind to handle Riley’s emotions, and they do it terribly. Riley’s homesickness grows, and her personality becomes increasingly skewed. Eventually, Anger puts the idea in Riley’s head to steal her mother’s credit card and run away back to Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Joy and Sadness try to get back to the headquarters before everything falls apart. Their journey culminates with Joy finding herself, as well as the core memories, trapped at the bottom of a dump filled with forgotten memories. As she observes one of Riley’s happy memories from a hockey game, she makes an important realization: the memory didn’t begin as a happy one; it began as sad one.

Riley was left upset and alone after losing the game, so her parents and friends came to comfort her in her time of need.

Joy realizes that it’s alright for Riley to experience sadnessthat her life is not only defined by the moments of sheer joy, but by the ones where she found healing in a time of need.

When they make it back to the headquarters, Joy lets Sadness handle the control panel. Riley returns home, and expresses her homesickness to her parents, who comfort her and agree that they miss home, too. Another bittersweet, core memory is created and stored away.

Inside Out teaches us an important lesson in self-care: it’s okay to embrace the emotions we feel, no matter what they may be. Trying to force ourselves to be happy and suppress the fact that we’re overwhelmed, stressed or angry causes those feelings to build up until they explode.

The emotions we feel as we try to balance everything that college entails can be so incredibly overwhelming at times. Everyone has experienced those weeks where you have too many assignments due, three exams to take and what feels like not enough time to complete any of it. During that same week, everything seems to be going wrong, you’re likely running on an average of four hours of sleep per night and those three cups of coffee you had aren’t stopping you at all from feeling exhausted in every way.

Those are the kinds of weeks where we often try to push through the stress and anxiety, and pretend that we’re not overwhelmed. Usually, that method ends in a breakdown.

The best thing we can do in those moments is to get our emotions out in the open. Find someone to talk to. Write down how you’re feeling in a journal. Pray. Cry if you have to. Your emotions are valid. Don’t be afraid to let them out. Chances are, there are plenty of people around you who experience the same feelings.

Those bittersweet moments where we find peace in the middle of our personal chaos can become some of the most defining moments of healing and joy in our lives. They can open our eyes to how much the people around us love us and how strong we really are.

Hold on to the happy moments in your life, and grow from the difficult ones. Our lives are defined by every moment that grounds us and shapes us. We’re not reduced to our brokenness; we’re proof that sometimes you have to break to be built up again. Sometimes, you just have to experience the downs in order to get to the ups.

Life in college can be a roller coaster. It can make us feel every emotion imaginable. We just have to learn to embrace those crazy emotions in our heads.

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