How Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Helped Me Find My Spark Again During My Depression

"Soul"
Photo: Courtesy of Pixar. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by what the world has to offer? Ever since I was a little girl, I didn’t know what I wanted from life. Of course, most children don’t, but nothing seemed to spark my interest. Most kids my age enjoyed going to the park with friends or playing the piano, but I didn’t like anything of that nature. My favorite and only pastime was sitting in my room watching Disney Channel. Don’t get me wrong, I still love watching reruns of That’s So Raven and Lizzie McGuire, but that didn’t ignite a spark. It felt comfortable and I wasn’t willing to change. 

If I could relate my younger self to any fictional movie character it would be 22 from Pixar’s latest film, Soul. 22 is a fresh soul from the Great Before (a fantastical land where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to earth) who is stuck when it comes to finding her purpose. In the film, purpose refers to living life to the fullest and enjoying the small moments. Doing that requires finding something you’re passionate about and living mindfully while engaging in that activity. 22 had spent so many years looking for her purpose that she nearly gave up. Not only did she lose sight of what she was searching for, but she also lost sight of why it was important. 

"Soul"

Image: Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection.

While I wasn’t stuck in the Great Before like 22, I was stuck in the mindset that there was nothing out there for me that could bring me joy. If only I could have had someone like Joe Gardner growing up. In Soul, Joe is a man from New York City who has a passion for jazz. Nothing gave him as much joy as playing the piano. However, his life on earth came to a halt when he suddenly died and ended up in the Great Beyond, a place before the afterlife. While in the Great Beyond, Gardner was called to mentor 22 and help her find her “spark.” 

Joe works with 22 to help her find her spark. Growing up, my parents tried to help me find my spark by signing me up for every extracurricular activity possible. Basketball, baseball, swim team, karate, theater, pottery—you name it, I tried it. I grew tired of trying activity after activity with little drive and eventually it led to depressive feelings. Similar to 22, I thought I had just about given up trying to find my passion, or something that made life seem worth living. 

I thought I had just about given up trying to find my passion, or something that made life seem worth living. 

Imagine not having one thing on this earth that gave you real purpose. That was me up until a few days ago. I would call myself a writer, but that’s not really what I was doing. There’s a difference between mindlessly writing stories about the latest news and actually writing with a purpose. Many of the stories I was writing were about Addison Rae’s relationship status or Ariana Grande’s engagement. While I knew the stories would gain traction, they weren’t doing anything for me as a writer. It wasn’t until I saw Soul that I realized that. Mr. Gardner thought jazz was his purpose, but he was missing out on the true meaning behind it because he was consumed with being successful. 

"Soul"

Image: Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection.

That is exactly what happened with my writing career. I truly believed that my success as a writer came from what my family thought about the publications I was published in and the page views. Yes, it’s neat to be published in SELF and Women’s Health, but that is not the reason I write. 

I realized that my real purpose as a writer is to connect with others and share stories that might not be told otherwise. As a young girl, I always knew I was different but didn’t know why. I would turn to the internet to look for stories about other children who were lonely and didn’t feel “normal.” I couldn’t find many that were written in a way that were really related to mine. That is when I made it my mission to share the stories I wish I have read growing up, such as living with depression and accepting my identity as a queer person. 

When my depression convinces me I have no purpose, writing makes me realize that I do.

When my depression convinces me I have no purpose, writing makes me realize that I do. It’s what keeps me waking up day after day. 

By sharing my experiences, I have the potential to inspire other young adults and teenagers to live authentically and realize they’re not alone. Just like how Joe helped 22 find her spark, I believe that I’m helping other readers find theirs, and that is enough to keep my spirits high.

Soul is available to stream on Disney+.

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