How movies helped me succeed in stressful times

A group of siblings having fun and watching a movie together.

Oscar Torres/UT

A shot of me and my sibling enjoying a movie together.

Growing up, I didn’t have any siblings yet. It was pretty dull with no other person my age at home.

My parents weren’t around during the day because my dad was at work, and my mom was still in college.

I would spend most of the day at my grandparents’ house or in my own home with my aunt. 

I hardly speak any Spanish, so communicating with my grandma was tough. I spent most of my time exploring the house or going outside. 

I would always want to spend time with my family, but I couldn’t since they were at work or too busy with errands and other tasks.

Most days, I would read a book or sleep until my parents got back.

Not having anyone my age to hang out with or talk to was tough: I would often just lie down in bed or try to focus on my school work.

I felt lonely and wished I had a brother or sister to spend time with. 

Things changed when my parents bought a TV that was also a VHS player. Usually, I used it to play Super Mario or Sonic, which was a good distraction.

Even better was a gift from my aunt. After she cleaned her house, she found a bunch of VHS movies, mainly by Disney, and gave them to me.

One of the first movies I saw from the pile was “Toy Story.”

During my first viewing, I loved the animation and the acting. But what hooked me was the story.

A great story shares a message. When the toy cowboy, Woody, wasn’t being played with a lot, the child, Andy, spent most of the time playing with Buzz Lightyear, an astronaut-like toy. That’s when Woody feared being forgotten or alone.

I hate being alone. The movie reflected some of my own fears about being isolated and distant from my family members since I’m always on my own when my family is busy with work. It’s something that is always on my mind.

After that, I watched the film with my parents when they had free time. That was a great feeling because I always enjoy spending quality time with them, and it was the first movie that I had watched with my parents.

Watching the film with them made me want to talk more about not just that film but a lot of movies in general. I got a chance to spend more time with them and found that we love to do this one thing together when we all have time for ourselves.

I started to go through all the films with my family and friends and enjoyed every second of them.

That is how my love for movies, both old and new, grew.

College days

In college, my love for storytelling helped me find journalism as a major, but my first semester at Cal State LA in 2021 was stressful.

Three of my four classes were demanding news production classes. Those classes had me interviewing people of all types, from government officials to everyday citizens.

Most of my days would amount to working and making sure I got my stories done in a timely way, fact-checking everything to make sure it was correct, and writing and editing them so they would be as perfect as possible.

Since reporting in the field wasn’t allowed due to COVID-19, there were some days that I would spend the entire day seated in front of my computer, in class on Zoom, and working on my stories and assignments. Occasionally, I got up to use the restroom or get something to eat. 

By the time I finished my assignments, it would be nearly 6 p.m. Feeling drained, I often went to my bed and just lay there. After that, I didn’t feel like doing anything else or getting up.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks into the semester that I got a call from one of my friends asking if I wanted to join them and our group to watch “Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings.”

I hadn’t watched a movie in a theater in so long or with a group of friends because of COVID-19 precautions.

This was a great opportunity to take off from my job organizing checks and invoices for my dad. I didn’t have anything due that week. So I joined them.

After nine months of not seeing each other in person, we got caught on what we had been up to. The highlight was just having fun, sharing laughs and feeling like a normal 20-something again. I felt healthy, happy, and stress-free.That night got me thinking that I needed to have more time for myself and my friends. So I committed to meeting up and watching movies together every week.

A shot of me watching Shrek 2 with my friends on Discord. (Oscar Torres/UT)

Since I started that routine, I no longer feel burned out from working too much. It even helps me work more quickly and efficiently, knowing I want to make time for myself.

Now, I even try to watch one film during the week for 20 to 30 minutes per night before sleeping.

One of my closest friends, Mathew Helm, said recently, “The best part is when we all come together and make each other happy and have fun. That’s the best part of the week: Spending time with each other, having time off from our work environments, and just watching some movies.” 

My advice to students and others is to learn early to make time for yourself. Then, whenever you have a long or rough week at work or school, it will give you something to look forward to.

Loosen up and take a day off from work. Do something that you love to do.

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected].