It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Doing the same routine day in, day out, never really taking inventory of what’s actually important to us. Those goals we had set for ourselves in times past, diluted by the daily grind of life. For me, it took an argument between Sarah Williams and Agnes, the junk lady, to help me see that I needed to move on.
Let’s back up for a second.
If I was to pick one cherished movie of my childhood that has zero relevance to anyone who didn’t see (and enjoy) it by the time they were 10 it would be Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth.” For many in my generation, that movie struck the perfect balance of whimsy, hope, fear, adventure, and comedy. It had a strong female lead for girls to look up to, and enough monsters and griminess for the rest of us. I’m sure David Bowie’s presence – above and below the waist – kept much of the adult-set entertained as well.
For the uninitiated, the film follows Sarah as she finds herself in a fantasy world’s giant maze as she tries to best the Labyrinth that leads to the castle where Jared, the Goblin King, holds Toby, Sarah’s baby brother. Sarah must solve the maze and confront the King at his castle within 13 hours, or Toby will be turned into a goblin.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get back to the point – how a scene from a 32-year-old movie came to my 35-year-old brain at the moment I needed it.
I was chatting with a friend from Toronto about taking a break from my day job. We’ve both been with the same company for over a decade. I wanted some time away to explore, well, this – a writing career. He echoed a similar desire, but then mentioned being tasked with a side-project, and the office space where he was going to be doing it. He told me about being instantly comfortable when he walked into that space. Co-workers immediately started talking up his presence there, and how he was missed. I reacted quickly. Words just came out of my mouth. Stop listening to these garbage people trying to keep you complacent.”
“Yes, I like these people, but it’s not all that great and it’s not what you want. It’s like that scene from the Labyrinth: Ooooh lookee here, remember the desk you use to sit at? Why don’t you have a seat? Comfy isn’t it? And look here, a nice new mouse for you to use – you like these mousepads too don’t you? Yes you do. And let’s not forget about all the monitors, so many monitors, you love those, too don’t you? So many screens”
Laughter on the other end of the phone. Maybe he thought I was crazy (likely) or maybe he thought I had a point. That’s when I explained to him – and realized for myself – that even though there is comfort in what we know, and what we know can be pleasing and inviting, it doesn’t always amount to the right thing to do. I had to take a hard look at myself and remember the ambition I had suppressed for years. I had to get to my Toby. So I took some time off to find him. I have a lot more than 13 hours, but the clock is still ticking.
That’s the power of film. The life lessons they instill from the most outlandish settings. The moments of clarity that can come from a hero’s journey. The relatable stumbling blocks that we all encounter at one point or another. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, or how fantastical it may be in viewing, these are moments that can define us. This random scene is a moment that might help define me.
There is still some maze to complete, some expected challenges, and some unforeseen challenges yet to be met. I’m sure I’ll encounter an Escher-room at some point where I’ll have to just trust my instinct to get past it (seriously, just watch the movie). I have yet to “rescue my Toby.” Even if life kind of goes back to normal after I do get to accomplish what I set out to find, that’s okay. I’ll always have the adventure to remember.
I hope to entertain you in the coming days, weeks, months and even years – “should you need me, for any reason at all.”