I finished a movie trilogy today and I feel bittersweet about it. I love the Cornetto Trilogy by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, and I finally watched the third movie, The World’s End. I really liked it, just like the other two. While the third movie was not as funny as the first two, the message of The World’s End hit home a lot more for me. The main character, Gary King, is living in the past. Convinced that his life only got worse after he graduated high school and almost finished their epic pub crawl, he gathered his old friends back together again to try and make it through the entire pub crawl. Thinking that it would make his life complete and that he would finally accomplish a past goal by finishing the pub crawl, maybe he could stop living in the past if he could just finish what they’d started over 20 years ago.
I identify with this character because I feel like my life peaked in high school too. My junior year was the best year of my life. I performed in 4 shows my junior year of high school (3 of them lead roles), headed up many crews, and won one of the top awards for the drama department that year. I felt like I was really accomplishing something with my life and was really looking to the future. I got accepted into a special Senior only drama class that was a big bump to my early resume, and I was getting my applications together for several performing arts colleges on the east coast. My grades were good, and my future was wide open. I was at an end-of-school year party and we were all sitting around talking and I remember saying “What if life can’t get any better than this?”
My senior year was much worse. My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and started an aggressive schedule of chemo. Because of this, my family needed me to stay close to home, so I had to go to a local college instead of the one on the east coast that I had already been accepted to. The good auditions that I had in my junior year mysteriously went away. I was cast in one moderate role and one minor role for the whole year. My confidence in my own abilities became shaken because I wasn’t seeing the difference in my acting that the director’s were now seeing. My girlfriend became pregnant and we fought over what to do. My father and I fought over what I wanted to do with my life. Watching my mother slowly deteriorate changed my father’s point of view and he became hyper-critical of my plans to get a theatre degree instead of supportive. My life was falling part. I ended my grade school years on a much different question than the year before. I left high school begging “I hope life can’t get any worse than this.”
I often question my choice to become a drama teacher as a pathetic plea to relive my own glory days from high school. Like the main character in The World’s End, I often feel like I left things unfinished and no matter what I do in my career I can never live down the disappointments that happened at the end of high school. I like that the character finds redemption and meaning by the end of the story. It makes me feel like even I could find redemption and meaning in my life. However, I don’t like that the world really did have to end for that redemption and meaning to be found. Does this mean that I have to “blow up” my world to find meaning? Am I brave enough to actually try and find out? Hmmm.