There’s a scene in the recent film The Way, Way Back that is lingering with me. (mild spoilers ahead)
The film is about a lonely and frustrated 14-year-old boy who comes of age in a vacation town one summer. He is staying at the beach house of his mother’s boyfriend whom he doesn’t get along with.
In an attempt to escape this he rides his bicycle to a water park where the quirky owner/operator takes him under his wing and offers him a job. As the distance grows between him and his family, he finds his place within the team and thus acceptance at the water park.
When his family leaves suddenly, he makes a final visit to the water park and his mother follows him. An employee of the month poster greets her with her son smiling in the accompanying images, which is a rare sight when she is around. In her few minutes there she discovers that her son has a place where he is recognised and respected and loved. He has found the emotional security she was unwilling to provide as she sought to focus on her new boyfriend.
I’ve pondered why the discovery of this teenage boy’s secret life resonates with me so much. I think part of it is the way it acts as a rebuke to the cold-heartedness of the mother. In a sense it says that because she would not honour her son that others would. There’s also the beauty of a young soul flourishing when he is given the right interpersonal conditions.
The other reason I think it appeals to me is a little more personal and a little less honourable. Sometimes I wish that there was a better version of me that is just waiting to break out. One where I am kinder and happier and more loving and more satisfied. A version that only requires the right kind of surroundings and people to flourish. To summarise, this film and that scene speaks to my fantasy that my weaknesses are not challenges I need to overcome, but issues that a new surrounding would fix.
I don’t think that’s entirely the correct view of the situation. Instead it is me that needs to change and that would lead to different interactions with the environment and people. But that is a lot easier said than done and having been a proper adult for a few years now it’s disconcerting that time does not provide a magical cure all to all the weaknesses I have had for years.
Honestly, some days I wish that life didn’t feel like work. It wasn’t one chore after another or a continual requirement that effort be made. Sometimes I wish that something amazingly good could happen to me and I had nothing to do with it. As I type this my brain reminds me of all the undeserved, good things that have happened to me, but that does not change the fact that this is what lingers underneath my desires sometimes.)
(The Way, Way Back trailer can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qoaVUdbWMs)