The Cheat Code to Growing Up

    Cover by Rozzie Cribbs

    In March I went on this animated movie kick. I’ve always loved animation but I’m not always on top of it like I used to be (something they don’t tell you about growing up #656 🥴.) I’m pretty sure the premiere of Turning Red is what started it, plus some other things happening personally. Then I moved to my first watch of Encanto, even though it came out last year. I thought, “why not another?” so I watched The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

    Of course, I loved them all (and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is going double platinum in my headphones, as far as I’m concerned). Mei trying to balance the expectations of her mother, family responsibilities, and her true self in Turning Red. Maribel trying to live up to the Madrigal family name while seeming to never please Abuela Alma. Katie’s film dreams (!!) repeatedly doubted and questioned by Rick. Each film explored family dynamics in such a unique way that I hadn’t seen before. 

    Or… haven’t I?

    When I finished high school, I spent a few weeks (trying) to get my life together for my next profession in life: being an undergraduate. I was turning the page to a new chapter. From living at home to living in a dorm with three strangers. From the room I grew up in, to bringing a few things to fit in a 200 sq. ft space that I’d be splitting with an entire stranger.

    This year, the same can be said about the Multimedia journalists of Mildsauce. Many are preparing for the chapter in their lives when they become “official adults”. Whether it’s entering the workforce, going to trade school, community college, or taking a gap year; everyone’s story is different.

    Given that there is a new cohort of graduating young adults, what makes the Class of 2022 unique?  Well, it’s right between this odd time of establishing Normalcy in the pandemic. This is the era where they’ve had three years of Zoom classes, quarantines, vaccine campaigns, and graduation that’s different on so many levels. This new chapter, this moment, this young adulthood, marks a new era.

    In college, one of my classes featured us making a five-year plan. It wasn’t just any old five-year plan, my professor had us write down each goal we wanted to accomplish every month, for 60 months. And for those months, we had to put down what we were working towards every single week.

    Yeah. Intense.

    I was very thorough, and I have a wild imagination so I planned big (but still tangible and reasonable, in my 21-year-old mind!) And wouldn’t you like to know? 

    That meticulously masterful five-year plan was scheduled to start in 2018, and end… in 2022.

    In the spirit of things I’ve brought from my childhood, superstition prevents me from breezily writing down the specific plans I wanted to execute on that two-page, 61-row by 7-column spreadsheet.

    But, what wasn’t on the plan? A global pandemic pausing any and everything for nearly 3 years. Having to quit toxic work environments. Losing my day job. The list goes on. And that’s just professionally! This doesn’t include the personal, like trying to process how much loss would occur over these years.

    Photo by @NappyStock on

    The iconic Lion King scene, where (spoiler?) Mufasa falls and gets trampled to death is a scene I’ve watched many times as a youth. In a college course, we spoke about youth, the media we were exposed to, and how that affected us as adults. Lion King was brought up again, and there was even an essay exploring how Lion King portrayed a child’s grief process. But I can’t definitively say as a child that I processed that scene as death.

    Fast forward to 2020, when I have my first proper encounter with loss. This time, I was very aware and present that someone who was once here, in reality, was no longer there. I attended my first funeral at the end of 2020. I was actively processing and aware that this was death and loss.

    Now, let’s talk about Big Bong. The friendly (yet slightly unsettling and irritating) imaginary friend from Inside Out. I first viewed Inside Out in college. That movie certainly hit me in the emotions, but I was more into the main characters (Sadness, Joy) than Bing Bong. In 2020, I rewatched the film with a friend. Tell me why I was heartbroken as I watched Bing Bong (spoiler?) sacrifice himself and jump to his death/oblivion? I actually teared up! Even though I had seen that film years before, that was the first time I felt moved like that.

    If you couldn’t tell, I firmly believe that animation actually aids in processing some parts of adulthood more than people give it credit for. Call it a little cheat code to adulting, if you will. In fact, I had a fantastic conversation at Street Level (where Mildsauce content is created in the physical realm) with some coworkers. It wasn’t about 401ks or cryptocurrency, but it was actually about the very thing we don’t talk about… Bruno.

    Tanya Jaramilla (Chief of Operations at Urban Gateways/ Street Level) mentioned being a parent and watching Encanto with her daughter. She stressed that the “message” of these films is usually had in tandem with conversations being held in the household. The message is truly received when one is cognizant of the issues portrayed on screen. A fun family with superpowers versus an incredibly complex family working through intergenerational trauma.

    So, haven’t I seen these family dynamics/ situations before? Haven’t I been exposed to these messages and conversations before? What’s different now?

    I grew up.

    Of course my viewing of Lion King when I was five was completely different. Of course I immediately resonated and reacted to the matriarchal power structure in Turning Red. Of course I’ve been reflecting on how intergenerational trauma has affected my family since viewing Encanto. Of course I felt something different when Bing Bong died.

    Like so many of us, I am still defrosting from my childhood. I was tasked with picking out a career at the age of 18. I live in constant disdain and confusion at taxes, insurance, and all the like. Growing up I’ve had to figure out that things take time. Growing up I’ve figured out that rugs are insanely expensive. Setting up wi-fi is the most unnecessarily time-consuming process in the world and it makes me want to go off the grid every single time I move. Growing up I’ve figured out that the majority of people ask for help with their taxes. Growing up I’ve learned that we all have that inner child in us, begging to be tended to and sometimes set free.

    Growing up, I now have a name to call the unbalanced power structures and systems in place in this country and the world. I’m constantly upset that there’s no “quick fix” button. There are no animated movie montages to kick in and show me quickly solving all the problems.

    I find so much solace in realizing that growing up means realizing that honestly, nobody knows what they’re doing even if they won’t admit or talk about it. Some may play it off real smooth, but we’re all truly stumbling forward in life and seeing what sticks. I look at my five-year plan and find peace in remembering Rihanna saying “Only God knows, girl. We make plans and God laughs, right?”

    Comment below, because we want to know: Is there a life lesson/cheat code you remember from childhood that you learned from animation? Or any media?


    Mildsauce invited five young journalists to reflect on the theme “Growing Up”. These podcasts range from intergenerational conversations to figuring out taxes, to feeling hesitant about stepping out into the world, and so much more.


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