I recently spent time hanging out with some college friends. We had our annual “Pumpkin Party.” Being fans of all things autumn, we made pumpkin desserts, drank pumpkin and apple ale’s (if you haven’t tried Redd’s Apple Ale you’re missing out!), and watched Halloween and autumn themed movies. When we were sitting down to choose which movies to watch, we saw that ABC Family was starting their annual 13 Days of Halloween that night. One of the featured films: Monsters Inc. Naturally, we progressed to the recently released Monsters University. Cue the thought-provoking comment!!
I should mention, SPOILER ALERT. You have been warned (or hopefully you were warned when reading the title to this post, if so, way to use your powers of deduction.)
Monsters University tells the story of how our two favorite monsters, Mike and Sully, met and became buddies. They meet at the titular school and SHOCKER, they do not get along well at all. Through trials and tribulations they bond and become the best of friends. At the end of the film, after messing up big time, Sully and Mike get expelled from Monsters University. They react to their expulsion by deciding to go after their dreams anyway. We learn during the credits that they rise through the ranks of Monsters Inc. by being janitors, mechanics, mail room workers, and eventually the scaring team we see in the original film.
During my night of pumpkiny glut, one of my fellow pumpkin party attendees said something along the lines of, “This movie was adorable, but that ending, ugh!” They then mentioned how being expelled and not finishing school was frustrating to watch. However, they recognized the merits in the perseverance of Mike and Sully to continue in the direction of their dreams and never give up. End of conversation.
I must admit: I don’t walk around with my student affairs brain on all the time. I went and watched the film this summer and didn’t even think developmentally during the showing I attended. I just watched a film and was thoroughly entertained. The comments made by my friend stirred some thoughts, some four months later.
As a movie goer, I was disappointed with the ending to the film. I was frustrated that Dean Hardscrabble (how bad-ass is that name, voiced by the just as bad-ass Helen Mirren?) did not reinstate Sully and Mike. I think we were meant to feel this but admire Mike and Sully for forging ahead anyway. As an emerging student affairs professional, I appreciated Hardscrabble being consistent. Throughout the film she is portrayed as being tough to the point of overkill. During the film, Mike and Sully deserved to be expelled. If she let them back in, how developmental is that? This message is important. It teaches us that there are consequences for our actions. It teaches us that our talents sometimes cannot be developed in certain places. It teaches us that if we get a dream and stick with it we can achieve it. We also need to know that the dream might also change shape, morph, or take on a partner or two. Most importantly, that a dream will not happen overnight.
Isn’t that a metaphor for life? I certainly did not wake up wanting to be a Student Affairs professional. I wanted to be an educator, a teacher of history. Somewhere during college, I realized that teaching in the traditional, classroom and students way, was not what I wanted. I wanted to mold, to interact, to be personal, to have an impact in a way that was not as possible as when I had a trillion New Jersey Core Curricular Content Standards to make sure I was teaching. Or another bunch of hoops to jump through. Mike and Sully might not have finished school but neither did Steve Jobs. Or Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg, either.
In conclusion, sometimes it takes a Hardscrabble to make a world-class scarer, a scarer without a college degree, but a scarer none-the-less. Sometimes an educator will change their path. Sometimes, the journey will be a winding one. What society determines is necessary for success does not always work out. Go with your gut, go with your truth, and go with your dream.