Hospitals aren’t too big on segmented floor plans. After having my mental instability confirmed and my clothes taken from me (who knew the confiscation of shoelaces could double as the thievery of your dignity), this fact became immediately apparent upon my entrance. As the wing dedicated solely to the rehabilitation of troubled adolescents, I encountered a number of intriguing characters, all varying in age and eccentricity.
From a linguistically challenged adoptee who exclusively quoted Lil Pump lyrics, to a foul-mouthed seven-year-old with an unquenchable obsession for Uno. While optimism was hard to come by, there was certainly no shortage of trauma among us. Padlocked, colorless, and almost entirely without windows, this was to be my home for the next three nights – and I spent the first one crying myself to sleep.
Decisively more so than the afternoons rife with repetitious board games, or the nights spent looking out my window longing for normalcy, mornings were the worst. As the light of dawn spilled over my paper-thin bed sheets, highlighting my fresh scars reminding me that I’d been committed, realizing that my freedom was hopelessly tethered to the abstract concept of “stability” was by far the most demoralizing amidst the daily super cut of mental emaciation.
Each morning, you were handed a cupful of pills corresponding to your illness; depending on the plurality of said conditions, some cups were heftier than others. After ingesting yours, you were asked a question: “On a scale of one to ten, how depressed are you feeling right now?” Your answer – depending on how high or low the number you chose to reply with – acted as the catalyst in determining whether or not you would be leaving that afternoon.
The undisputed highlight of each day however, was Movie Time. Reserved for the post-dinner festivities, our supervisors opened up a sizable drawer filled to the brim with kid-friendly cinema, allowing us the opportunity to vote on that night’s watch.
On my first night, we watched Like Mike – a film of which, when you consider the fact that I was both physically and geologically unable to watch literally anything else, wasn’t half bad. On the second night though, a particular spine caught my eye: Paddington 2. Being able to confirm its brilliance in the fact that I’d already seen it once before, that DVD case was a beacon of light amidst the Like Mikes and Night at the Museums of the world, and a movie of which I was dead-set on watching. We almost didn’t – my vote was up against a unanimous push for a Like Mike encore, but thankfully, the specialists felt bad for me and ignored the pleas of my peers. If that hadn’t happened, I’m not so sure that I would be here today.
Experiencing the journey of Paddington Brown in the context of hospitalization elevates its nice-core sensibilities to transcendental heights — I would recommend you try it sometime, but I can certainly understand why you wouldn’t want to. Every smile shown, every greeting given and daring deed done, all executed with the intent of selflessness and communal betterment, were emblematic of a head-space I yearned to occupy, yet at the time, was presently unable to reach.
To this day, I look back on that night as a turning point in my life, a fork in the road where I chose the middle, and came out the other side unscathed. Through the effervescent misadventures of an animated bear with a relatable affinity for marmalade, I saw my worldly perspectives re-upholstered and my optimism restored. The closing minutes still make me bawl like a child fresh from the womb, and while they do qualify as happy tears, I’ve always considered them to be much more profound – the streams represent the celebration of escaping an early grave, the tombstone that would’ve been mine if not for that evening. Put shortly, I wouldn’t be alive without Paddington. The following morning, when asked that inconceivably loaded question, I replied with “two.” Unlike the day before, I finally meant it.