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Tuesday March 8, 2005: Donnie Darko

        "The children have to save themselves these days because the parents have no clue." That was the line that stuck in my mind.

        Two of my boys had started bringing up the movie Donnie Darko in their conversations again, perhaps because the new director’s addition had recently come out on the market. I decided I’d better break down and make a trip to the rental store if I was ever to understand their fascination. I was especially curious because one son was beginning to go through his own psychic moments and said he identified with some of the scenes from the movie.

        With that kind of background, my first time watching the movie became a parent’s ordeal, trying to desperately figure out just what elements of this movie correlated with the way my kids viewed life. What was the message my youngest found so appealing – that parents and other adults will probably never understand the problems of a teenager? Did he feel he was an outside observer, pushed by fate toward some unknown destination, while the adults around him continued their lives, oblivious to his realities? I worried that somehow I’d fallen short in my support as a parent.

        Luckily, I went through the movie a second time and relaxed enough to enjoy it on its own terms. I sat through the movie a third time to pick up specific lines. This time I could identifying with my own teen years; and so -- after three viewings -- I’d become a Donnie Darko convert. Of course, that one statement still stuck in my mind. How many young adults feel grownups are clueless, caught up in social and career games that have little to do with the reality that looms in front of the teenager?

        I sure felt that way when I was a teenager. I probably came closer in some ways to identifying with Donnie Darko than most kids, since I went through my own battles with alternative realities. While my parents tried to be supportive (they only knew something in my life was stressful), they had no actual knowledge of what was going on. In retrospect, it was mostly my fault (I never told them); on the other hand, if I brought up a minor psychic episode it made them so uncomfortable. Their solution was to say, "These experiences may be real, but you need to ignore this kind of stuff or it will take over your life."

        That was no help. Other dimensions were already part of my life’s reality. They had been part of my reality for as long as I could remember. Simple straightforward psychic events, like those from my childhood, were being talked about in the public domain by the time I hit my teens, but that was too late to do me any good. By high school that psychic level of experience was ancient history. My awareness had expanded, and I remained in the same position -- unable to discuss the strangeness that sporadically interrupted everyday life; it was too far removed from what most people considered reality.

        What my parents could never understand was that I couldn’t just ignore other realities. I might be able to temporarily block some impressions from awareness, but I couldn’t stop them forever. If an impression was persistent enough, trying to hold it back would eventually result in an explosive shift in realities, far more frightening and intense than if I’d just let things happen in their own time.

        I had a love-hate relationship with the experiences themselves. I didn’t like living with strange realities, I hated the loneliness of having no encouraging soul to turn to for support; yet I couldn’t entirely turn my back on the search for answers within other dimensions. To give up the frustration of being "different" also meant giving up the chance to find answers -- to what already had happened, or to what might happen in the future. Perhaps that’s the reason Donnie Darko continued following the clues of his destiny.

        My lifestyle was certainly not an easy one to live. Somehow, I’d always hoped that I could save my children from the isolation and confusion of going through psychic events. It’s only in contemplating this movie that I realize a teen’s isolation is part of the Master Plan. When kids reach their late teens and early twenties, they are most likely to go through psychic episodes. They are most likely to feel adults can’t understand their realities. They are most likely to feel stuck with their own problems, convinced the adults in their lives haven’t got a clue.

        Yet, it’s the exact time in their life when they should feel that way. It is the exact time when they need to quit looking to parents and teachers to smooth over the rough spots and provide answers to life’s difficult questions. Only by taking the responsibility of problem solving on one’s own shoulders, by beginning one’s own solitary quest for answers, does a child begin the transformation of becoming an autonomous adult.

        It doesn’t matter if the problems involve alternative realities or rival gangs, dating issues or family problems. The time between mid-teens and mid-twenties is going to be a transition. If outside problems remain outside obstacles, then some precious part of human potential is lost. The power of Donnie Darko is the realization that allowed him to move on past the old and familiar with a sense of completion and understanding.

         Do the children have to save themselves these days? Yes, and as strange as it may sound, it may be one of the better moments in their lives.

Posted on Tuesday, March 8, 2005 at 05:16AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments2 Comments

Reader Comments (2)

Jesus, I wish my parents paid that much attention to me. While I don't agree with everything you've said, I still have to say... you're quite a sensitive and caring parent. Keep it up, it'll be rewarding when your adult children still speak to you.
-Darko Fan
September 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterA. Nony. Mouse.
Thanks, A. Nony. Mouse (love it).
It's been a long time since I've thought of Donnie Darko. This entry sounds like I turned the kids loose, which as a parent I couldn't do. I did release my anxiety over having to be responsible for not removing all the stress or solve all the problems. I needed constant reminders that it's their life, and they need support to work through their own problems.
Hope you have come to a better understanding with your parents, or--that failing--that you do better with your own kids someday. Some of the most painful phases of my childhood and teen years served me well as an adult.
September 2, 2008 | Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic

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