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7 Lessons on Loyalty from Toy Story 3

Nostalgia recently beckoned me to reflect on how I define and categorize loyalty. It was time to rewatch Toy Story 3, which I hadn’t seen since it debuted in 2010. The year I began preparing my college applications and dreaming of moving from Berkeley, California, to New York City. To say the film hit home emotionally is my attempt to keep some allure and mystique about myself. If I’m being raw about it, big, messy tears happened while watching the film in theatres. I can’t say 14 years has changed much.

The film explores loyalty, so how do we define it? My cousin's cousins, Merriam Webster, defines "loyal" as "unswerving in allegiance... such as a) faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government b) faithful to a private person to whom faithfulness is due c) faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product"

Here's how I envision loyalty in my 30s. I see myself standing on a suspended apparatus—a tight rope hoisted 40 feet above the ground. As I walk across, in my hands are two hoola hoops set afire. I'm twirling them on my thumbs while debuting a seated backbend. The tightrope represents my loyalty to myself, and my unswerving allegiance to my sovereignty, and the hoola hoops represent my loyalty to others—friends, family, strangers, and even enemies. And my loyalty to things - cultural traditions, workplace culture, philosophies, and even lip gloss brands. It's a lot to balance; these hoola hoops are weighted, it's getting hot, and my back hurts.

So, what did Toy Story 3 teach me about loyalty?

  1. Loyalty should be reciprocal. If it's not, it can lead to feelings of betrayal.

  2. Check in with yourself and others about your loyalty contracts and decide whether to renew. Loyalty should be assessed by those involved.

  3. Loyalty doesn't have to be a life sentence. Parting ways with what you were once loyal to doesn't mean you're a quitter; it can be done without betraying anyone or yourself.

  4. Your loyalty to yourself reflects your capacity to treat others with care.

  5. Loyalty should not take precedence over personal fulfillment.

  6. Having loyalty will not protect you from feelings of abandonment or lack of belonging.

  7. Maintaining loyalty to the right folks under the right conditions on an appropriate and mutually agreed-upon timeline can improve your life drastically.

At the film's end, Andy’s toys realize that their commitment to the now college-age young adult is over. The mission is complete. Andy is grown now. Although the mutual love and appreciation remain, the only true loyalty the toys have now in this season of their life is to each other and themselves.

Now I’m asking myself, what personal loyalties are tattooed on the bottom of my shoe? What loyalties are tattooed to the bottom of my heart? I ask you the same question: What are you loyal to right now in your life?

Toy Story 3 is streaming on Disney Plus.

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