Remember. Or have you forgotten?
Remember. You are my son, and the one true King. It’s last Sunday of 2020, Lot. What better way to finish up this year, than with a story? It’s not just any movie for me. The Lion King is the most important film in my life. Not Star Wars, not Marvel. This Disney classic was with me in the darkest moments. It’s time for you to hear this tale – probably one of the most intimate I have.
I don’t ask you to analyze or understand. It’s complicated and it’s my thing – mine to the bone, it’s every fiber and piece of my soul. Just listen.
Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.
Let me take you back to high school, because “The Lion King ritual” was shaped in that time. Sure, you probably remember that I watched this film since I was a little kid, but this isn’t ordinary. I was one year old, when The Lion King had its premiere. So, let me tell you this story Nolan-style, non-linear way.
High school. Moments go through my head with the speed of light. First heartbreak, family losses, friendships that ended. This was a rough time for me – mentally. I was going through a lot of changes. My childish mentality started evolving into more adult ways. This was the time my introvert-self whispered: “Awaken, my love”! Sadly enough, there was no one around me, who would tell me that it’s okay.
No, that’s not entirely true – there was Szymon, my friend. Movie-lover, movie-goer as yours truly, and things clicked between us instantly. What I meant was family. My parents had a different outlook on those “mental matters”.
They’re fireflies. Fireflies that, uh… got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.
Had – past tense. To be clear, after many storms, fights and silent days they accepted that this is who I am. I thrive with the right people around me. That does not mean that my family is not “right people” but you get the point – it’s family. Something we don’t get to choose. So, back in high school I was going through all things first.
Heartbreak. Funny thing is, that I don’t even remember that dude anymore. All I know is that one day I came home and realized that this is how my life might look like – I get close to someone, open up my soul, my heart. Tell all the things that scare me, all the things that make me unpretty. And the other side will hear, but not listen. The other side, will patiently wait and think of how his next move can destroy me. Modus operandi can vary from person to person – either ghosting, lying or just playing. For any young heart, this cocktail was deadly. Frankly, it was quite enough to decide to shut down love factory for good.
I remember coming home, feeling very nostalgic. This was yet another wave of introversion, mixed with sudden realization: I just got my heart broken, for the very first time. Beside obvious sadness and overwhelming, crushing loneliness I felt… Strength? Force, coming straight from that strange, unknown introversion. And that Force made me realize, that there are ways to cope with that.
I’m surrounded by idiots.
On Christmas Eve, my mum was a bit sad that it’s just the two of us. I could not help but smile. Sure, it’s not as cheerful as last year. It feels lonely and a bit sad. But I can finally rest. For the past 10 weeks I’ve been working for 10-12 hours a day. 10 weeks. I don’t remember going that extreme, ever. And that bounced back on my health – my body said “Enough, bro. I’m done”. Crowd or big family gathering are overwhelming. And I could never compare it to high school heartbreak, but feelings were similar. Loneliness, sadness. I feel particularly vulnerable these days. Maybe this is why I want to share The Lion King with you?
10 years ago, I came back home with the first heartbreak. My relationship with parents was like skating on thin ice. Since rather unfortunately, the introversion started kicking in during my first year of high school, we became more and more distant. Not secretive – just distanced. I knew how much they had on their plate, with my brother causing so much trouble. My broken heart, as I decided, was not worth mentioning. What good would it do? “Hey, I’m home! I have much to do, so I’m just gonna go to my room, okay?” My voice wasn’t even shaky – who knew, mastering being firm was so easy?
Do you Lot celebrate name’s day? It is a big thing in my family, sometimes bigger than birthday. Anyway, when I started high school, my parents got me video recorder – for all my VHS tapes. For all… They knew how much I love watching The Lion King – my favorite Disney film. They remembered.
Whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.
There are moments in life when we feel terribly alone. If I could describe it… You know, I used to hate my night shifts at the hotel. Around 3-4 am, I always felt piercing cold. It didn’t matter how many blankets I had with me. I guess this was the night’s coldest moment. So that feeling of being alone – not lonely, alone – felt exactly like that. My parents knew, that there is no point of starting a conversation. I was “in my head” as they called it, sure that it’s just another phase.
I was alone, feeling alone. I looked around my room – then with violet walls. My gaze stopped at the TV and the recorder. The Lion King tape was lying on top of it, just waiting for me to put it on. My mind was made up, so after changing into something more comfortable (who would’ve thought that sweatpants will be me home office uniform now!), I sunk in bed and turned the movie on.
I was 3 years old when my parents introduced me to The Lion King. And even though my childhood memories are foggy, I remember this day very well. From that day onward, I was watching this movie every day, after kindergarten. It drove my mum crazy – I wasn’t crying, no. But I was sad, just genuinely sad. My lips would turn into shape of horseshoe. It broke her heart, and frankly? Now I get it.
My 5-year-old godson has these phases – currently it’s watching HTTYD three times a day. There was a time, when he had the same thing with The Lion King. I saw the same sadness in him, my mum once saw with me. And curiosity, when he looked at me and saw red, puffy face. There must’ve been something he noticed, because he is not a snuggle bunny. That day, he kept coming to me each time.
Listen, you think you can just show up and tell me how to live my life? You don’t even know what I’ve been through!
14 years later, I was lying in my bed; cat by my side. Ahh, that furry bull of love. He loved to lay on me all day, on the weekends. So, whenever I was doing a film marathon in bed, he was there with me. Sometimes watching, sometimes making sure I don’t move. Nicolas loved The Lion King. I remember. Every time I watched it, he was there with me. He loved this film as much as I do. Always keeping his gaze locked on the animated animals.
His purring calms me down, but the tension in his paws makes me alert. My heart just got broken, and I thought of that when Rafiki was presenting Simba to the kingdom. Do you remember that adorable baby sneeze? It makes me smile every time. Ahh, the music. No wonder Hans Zimmer got his only Oscar for it – I am his biggest fan, but this film… You are beginning to understand how special it is to me.
My brain can’t seem to stop thinking. I should be focused on the film, on the plot. But my head is like entire Universe – full of different galaxies. Some of them are still unknown to me. Few of them are dangerous, filled with rogue thoughts. One is full of love. There is one extravert – responsible for thriving with the right people.
I try to focus on the sound. The music, the instruments. What did Hans Zimmer feel, when he wrote it? Did he feel butterflies? Like I did, when that guy texted me? Or smiled at me? My focus comes back to the screen, now Rafiki is painting little Simba on the tree. 9 years later, this sketch would become my first tattoo – the most important, most meaningful. And something clicks in my brain. At this exact moment, seeing this shot.
Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.
You know that studies say, that people who re-watch the same movie / TV show all the time, suffer from anxiety? Watching something familiar, makes us calmer. It’s familiar – no need to focus. We can relax. You’ve probably noticed that in 2020. Pandemic, remember? I bet you re-watched something you love. I’m sure, that you have some “go-to” films, that kept you alive during this shit show. It brings us solace and even though in TPC’s Movie Challenge I encouraged you (and me) to watch new films, I had few re-runs.
My brain was on full speed. It needed an anchor, something comforting, something… Anything, that could help me deal with loneliness and feeling generally overwhelmed. And suddenly, there is the Stampede sequence on the screen.
Childhood mentality kicked in. I felt so bad for Simba – watching his father die. Mufasa saved his life, after once again, he got into trouble. As a kid, I used to be in trouble quite often. I didn’t get along with kids in kindergarten – I wanted to be in center of attention and I loved being adored by them. What if it was my dad, trying to get me out of trouble? Nope, this is too far. But this is how my brained worked that day, this is how it found its anchor. By letting me broken heart sob and cry, when Simba lied down by Mufasa. Surrounded by dust and disperse. How many little hearts were broken by The Lion King? Have you ever wondered?
Disney tried to be as real with their messages as possible. And the message was: life is not sunshine and rainbows. There will be loss, there will be heartbreak. Loneliness and crushing sadness. What they did not think through, that I will use this mechanism as shield. Shield, that I can activate every time, something bad happen and I don’t want to deal with whatever comes. I know, that I can’t avoid it forever, no. But that first moment, first seconds of the event… My introversion is trying its best to protect me. By breaking my heart with The Lion King. Something I know by heart.
Stealing through the night’s uncertainties Love is where they are…
If I’m ever gonna get… No. Come on, let’s not got there. But this song… This damn song. For me, this is THE song. Once again, I’ll say it: I am a big fan of Elton John. He is an amazing artist with life, that could fill up few books and long nights of stories. His first Oscar was the most important – for Can you feel the love tonight. Did you know, that out of 5 songs that were nominated for the Academy Award in 1995, were from The Lion King? By each you will read “Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Tim Rice”. Certainly, it is one of the most meaningful songs in my life.
Sadly though, it leads to another heartbreak – this one happened during my time at the Military Academy. Back then I was sure, that no other man can break me like that. But before I tell you about that, something else happened a year before I met that guy. And him I remember all too well.
December 22nd, 2011. My mum woke me up around 10pm to tell me, that my grandpa died. He lost battle to cancer. Battle, we all wanted him so bad to win. But Disney got me ready for the losses – life is not sunshine and rainbows. I remember. My mum left me in my room – she needed the be alone. More, than I ever would. I should’ve gone after her, give her a hug. Be with her no matter what. And I stayed in my room, stunned. Trying to wrap my head around her words. Believe it or not, but this was… This death. It was the first in my family – no one shielded me from.
I remember, that the coming days were awful. Time to the funeral is the worst. Situation was quite similar to 2020 for Christmas – it was just me and mum. My dad and brother left work and rushed home, so we could pack the bags and drive to the seaside, to my grandma. I remember, that my mum was furious with me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t say a word. My brain learnt to cope with this kind of sadness by watching The Lion King. I wasn’t heartless, no. I was 18, but my mind, at that moment was 3. The only thing that could trigger my emotions was watching this film.
A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.
Death is natural. It’s not something unexpected, but on the other hand – it always is. We fear it, we fear the loneliness it leaves behind. This event in my life rattled the fundaments of “The Lion King ritual”. I didn’t know that back then, but it was only just beginning. Losing someone, who was your ally in life – supporting your choices, passions and fix ups – is terrible. And that is what my grandpa was for me. The ally I wish every child has. If I had to compare life to something, it would be like walking the line. And my grandpa’s death was push to either side. I started losing balance.
Being locked in my own head – traveling through that Galaxies – was nice. Comforting. But it was happening inside. Outside, I was trying my best to look okay. Fine, strong, happy. That probably sounds familiar to a lot of you, right? Pretending that we are all good, just to fall apart behind closed doors. In high school, I decided not to fall apart on life’s demand. I would rather do it on my own terms.
Anchor. Coping mechanism. My therapist smiled, when I told her about this. She asked me why did I choose to see her, since I had such an amazing (though completely unhealthy) tool to deal with emotions. I’ll answer that question later. Let’s go back to second heartbreak.
I thought that this time it will be different. This guy actually listened, responded. It seemed that we are on the same frequency with everything – life choices (or uncertainties), sports (okay, we rooted for different football teams. But with speedway…), music (Kid Cudi for life) or films. Inside jokes!!! Ohh, that was the killer, silent assassin.
I was just trying to be brave like you.
Looking at this from perspective I know, that he used me. My good heart, my broken soul and kindness. On my second year, I studied one term in Vilnius and for a very long time, I blamed myself for what happened next. We were in touch every day I was away – he kept my spirits up, we missed each other a lot. Inside jokes intensified. My heart started to feel full, better, complete?
The piece I was so abruptly deprived in high school, was there again. Ready to be glued back to the core. And I was willing to give that piece to him – for I thought that he will be the glue. My friend warned me – this was only happening via messages. I was away, he was going home for every weekend. And one day he told me, that he has found someone he was looking for.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t even a warning sign for me. My brain ignored it – as I later learnt, my brain decided to ignore that kind of red flags – and I kept the fake relationship going. The piece was in his hands and I’m sure that he was aware. But I don’t blame him for that – he saw an opportunity. He kept saying what I wanted to hear, deliberately avoiding the girlfriend subject. And I played along, hoping for the best outcome, which in this case was the soft intimacy. He listened and I needed that so much.
But my mind knew something was up. The Mechanism was rattled by events from 2011. I was fragile and vulnerable. The introversion, the Force convinced me that it’s not my broken heart. It’s Mufasa dying, that makes me so sad. And even though I knew, deep down that I got fooled again, I went with my flow. It was comforting. I was so proud that once again I was able to cheat life and its shitty maneuvers – I was crying my eyes out on my own terms.
But you’re not scared of anything.
I was today.
Yes. I thought I might lose you.
Side note – this is one of my favorite quotes in the film. And novelization as well. I uh, for one of my birthdays, Monia gave me the most wonderful book edition. When it comes to gift giving, she for sure has a black belt 😊
I took me two years to get over that heartbreak. Last year of studies and one after. The thing is, I still don’t blame him for what happened. Okay, maybe I should, for using me for his advantage. But I did this to myself, I was longing for closeness. The best thing about this situation was (and I think still is) the he never used it against me. He kept all those stories to himself.
The truth is, that I brought this on myself. I knew, for the second I saw his text about the girl, I knew how it’s going to end. But we all do things that brings us pleasure, even if it means double the suffering at the end. And maybe back then I didn’t want to stand out? I don’t know. I was a different person back then. 2 years to get over the guy, but I am still struggling to “neutralize” our songs. Can you feel the love tonight and Everything I do (I do it for you). Maybe one day, right?
At least this chapter of my life didn’t cause much damage – wasted time and opportunities aside. The next one did. During my master studies I met someone. From the start, I was cautious – the guy seemed sketchy. But I promised myself, that I will never miss another opportunity. I promised, that I will keep on taking chances. So, once again – my brain ignored the red flags and warning signs. This guy seemed… Dangerous, on edge. Something else, something unknown. I don’t know why I rushed into this – why so eagerly I talked about all the places, that other left scars. I think I was scared of losing him and his attention.
Ah, you’re an outcast! That’s great. So are we.
He used that. This was all intentional, I remember correctly. But above all that – he lied to me. He was lying all the time. I told him everything about me – good, bad, ugly. Every fear, every damn thing. Once again, it was all digital – he never dared to speak with me at the Academy. I blamed it on being shy and hurt before. Until the moment, he texted me one day “For the first time in 2 years, I’m single”. And what did I do? Comforted him, told him that I am sorry. Instead of lashing out, exposing all the lies… I was there for him.
He didn’t break my heart – I was smart enough to keep that little piece to myself. But I was also stupid enough to tell him all things about me. And guess what? It wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. My life, my soul, my heart. Not enough to deserve honesty and genuine affection. I broke my own heart this time. Ripped away another element. You know this feeling, when we do something bad to ourselves? The guilt, the shame. Hatred. I hated myself for being so damn stupid! While watching The Lion King with my cat that day, I knew that I was crying because of him. Nevertheless, I needed this film. This is was my anchor – it meant that things will get better soon.
The worst part about this situation was that I still had to see him, almost every day of my last year at the Academy. The best? Unexpected friendship, that I can cherish to this day. But things started to look up after I watched The Lion King. Coincidence? This was the power of believing so much into something so… Small? This film helped me initiate every healing process my body and mind needed. It wasn’t perfect, it started to collapse. But it was so much better, than dumping all that sadness and trouble on people around me.
What’s happened to you? You’re not the Simba I remember.
2019 was a ground-breaking year for me. Not only have I started this place, but my heart (or what was left of it) was torn to pieces. I was getting ready for live-action version of The Lion King, when I got the news that my cat was very sick. Once again, I was alone with my mum, trying to figure out how to help him. In his last week, we watched The Lion King every night. Even my mind was confused – the Galaxies all together. Each one was desperate to find solution.
But we couldn’t. Nicolas got weaker and weaker and I… I was crumbling down.“The Lion King ritual” stopped helping, because one integral part of it – my cat – could not keep his head up anymore. He needed help to jump on the bed and I felt so guilty, each time I had to move. But he kept watching, always. Not as actively as for the past couple of years but with one eye open. I still hoped that he will get to see the live-action version – with almost real animals. They would be so real to him…
He didn’t make it. I remember, that decision to end his suffering was one of the hardest I had to make in my life. I knew that my mum would not be strong enough to give the vet the green light. But it had to be done – he had no strength to stand up or to use his litter box. I could see light fading in his eyes. He wasn’t scared, but I was frightened to the bones. I was about to lose my second ally. My sidekick. When the doctor gave him injection, I was barely standing. My heart exploded with no fireworks. I never felt more alone.
The regrets came instantly. I yelled at him too much, I didn’t always pay the extra attention he required. The biting drove me mad and I cried a lot due to that. But he was my cat. He was there for me, when I came home exhausted, when I needed to snuggle.
Nicolas was the key element of “The Lion King ritual”. That brings us back to the question my therapist asked me when I saw her for the first time. What happened, that I decided to go to therapy? Well… My trick stopped working. The only thing that helped me organize my feelings and racing thoughts after every stumble, fail to succeed.
There’s more to being a king than getting your way all the time.
I don’t think it is necessary to remind you all my “freshest” heartbreak story. You know it all, and if don’t – you can read it here. This one hurt, because it was real. It moved beyond exchanging messages and it… It was with someone I knew for 10 years. So, all my feelings, suppressed in younger years, exploded with maximized intensity. We saw each other from time to time and never run out of topics to discuss.
We went to two concerts together and we had so many inside jokes… To this day I smile when I think about The Office, because I remember that this is our show. We have so many songs, catch phrases but most importantly – memories. That day, when I was crying in the bathroom at work, I realized that I lost a friend. Someone very close to my heart – not only in the romantic sense. And I knew that watching The Lion King will not kick of the healing now. Not this time…
So, I decided that I will give therapy a shot. I remember my therapist’s smile when I told her, what I just told you. Even though my coping mechanism was not exactly very healthy, it kept me going. It helped me overcome scary emotions, that later on I had to face anyway – but in a bit different matter. I had not tears left to cry.
The Lion King taught me, as a child, that life is hard. Family is not forever, and I have to accept it – the sooner the better. It taught me, as a teen, that love – true love – is rare, but not impossible. As an adult, it taught me that friendship can be unconditional and when it is, it’s easier to deal with life struggles. Do you want to know what it means today?
Look harder. You see? He lives in you.
On my 18th birthday, my godmother bought me tickets for The Lion King musical in Hamburg. This was a dream coming true – even though it was all in German. I was on cloud nine and in tears when we took our places on the balcony. Best birthday ever – with someone who loved every single part of me. I started crying before the show started, and by the end of Circle of life, when there is this final bang! I couldn’t see clearly. My aunt asked me what’s wrong, and I told her it’s the air conditioning. She saw through the lie, but didn’t say anything. She kept holding my shaking hand.
And then, few years after I got to see the live-action version. Hans Zimmer jump over the bar he set in 1994 with such grace… The score from 2019 version has me in tears every time. Donald Glover as adult Simba was great casting choice. I still am a little on the fence with movie itself, but it took me… 3 seconds? To start crying?
Marta was there with me, to hold my hand. I’m not sure if I told her about how I wanted my cat to see this version, but she knew – she knew that The Lion King was/is so important to me. She knew what she signed up for, going with me to see that film. Only few people saw me – the real me – watching this film. 3 seconds but so much has happened in my head. Hopefully now, you have full clarity… Not sure, if it makes sense.
The emotional charge I associate with Pride Rock is inexplicable. I told you stories about my bruised heart, about death and loss. But I don’t expect you to understand the importance. Today, I know that I have support in my family – they have accepted my introvert alter ego, though sometimes they think that I can switch it on and off.
You run along now and have fun. And remember… its our little secret.
2020 was rough for everyone – there is no denying. I watched The Lion King at least every two months. Last time? On Tuesday, when I came back from my doctor’s appointment. 10 weeks of over-working and over-stressing. 50 days, so almost two months. So later that night, I watched this film, because I knew this one is on me. I did this to myself, AGAIN.
I am so physically tired. Anxious and on the edge. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking: “Did I forget something?”. I am stressed about the apartment. It feels like it’s beyond me. In moments like this, I wish I was with someone who would say: “It’s okay. I’m here with you, you are not alone”. I know I’m not, but you get the point. Anyway – I did this to myself. Maybe this was something I deserved or maybe – just a wakeup call. While watching The Lion King, I realized that this is how I will deal with crushing waves of loneliness.
And 2020 is year of feeling alone. Being alone in the digital world full of people. People, who are just how they want to be – sweet, caring, fun-loving. It is so much easier to fall into that trap. Image, that is too good to be true. Picture, that looks beautiful but suspicious. I should care, right? Be smarter than I was years ago. I am not sure, though. Maybe this is my thing – maybe that’s all what is in cards for me? Perhaps we will find out.
Everything you see – exists together in a delicate balance. While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.
The Lion King for me is like a kaleidoscope. It is everything and so much more – never the same, always different and always with new meaning. Whenever I watch it, I am either sad, angry, devastated or… Alone. Lonely. Tired. Hopeless.
It is my way to start healing, even though lately it’s a bit harder to kick off this process. I guess it’s because I’m also getting older. One thing will never change – my evergreen love for that animation. This one thing in my life is forever.