There is already a lot of discussion around the accuracy of the events and the portrayals of P.L Travers and Walt Disney in “Saving Mr Banks”. I am not going to add to that discussion. I am not interested in fact-checking – although I did try to research before writing this post but there is nothing available online – this post is purely about my emotional reaction towards one of the characters in the film.
Last night I watched “Saving Mr Banks” for the second time, and I wept just as much this time around as I did the first time at the cinema. It is of course a very moving film, but I wept most of all because I see so much of myself in P.L Travers’ father, Travers Goff.
Goff is portrayed as a dreamer. A man who wholeheartedly champions, and engages with, his young daughter’s right to daydream and indulge her imagination as much as life will allow. Together they create characters and worlds and stories and you see him come alive in this make believe world just as much as his daughter does.
Why does he do this? Because it’s his make believe world too. He was a creative and imaginative man who didn’t want to be an adult all the time. He wanted to play!
“This world is just an illusion, Ginty ol’ girl. As long as we hold that thought dear they can’t break us, they can’t make us endure their reality, bleak and bloody as it is. Money, money, money, don’t you buy into it, Ginty. It’ll bite you on the bottom”.
But the day to day grind of doing a job which held no interest for him weighed heavily upon Goff, dreamer and idealist as he was. He hated the cage that the necessity to earn money created around him. The film implies that he went through a long line of what were, to him, oppressively constrictive and dull jobs, getting fired from each one and uprooting his family to move to the next location and start all over again. Putting on a brave face for his wife and children. His coping mechanism to dull out the pain and frustration was alcohol addiction, which of course had devastating consequences for him and his family.
Were he alive and here today, I feel like he’d be amongst the scores of frustrated actors, artists, writers, holistic practitioners and others, who cannot make ends meet doing what they love and so resign themselves to any work that will take them to make ends meet.
And that is why I relate to Travers Goff.
I’ve been called a dreamer all my life, and never more than when it comes to finding a career I can enjoy and feel engaged with. I’ve been told to grow up, and get realistic. I’ve been told I am weak because I can’t ‘put up and shut up’ like everybody else. But I would argue though that these are not necessarily bad things, nor are they things I can control or change about myself. And yet in our society these qualities seem to be so acceptably open to criticism from others, that I end up feeling ashamed of myself and assuming I am weak, I am stupid.
But I am a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I am a creative soul. I am an INFP i.e. an idealist, to whom purpose and passion for everything you do is incredibly important.
I’ve worked in a string of jobs for 10 years (and counting) that were inherently wrong for my personality and skill set but which I had to take and struggle through in order to fulfil my financial responsibilities. I have felt like I’m trapped in a cage. I can’t comment on whether Travers Goff had any sort of mental health issue but I have had them, caused by this never-ending job cycle of trying to break out and getting forced back in. I have often felt like meeting my financial responsibilities has priority in this life over my health and basic happiness.
I even see myself in his drinking habit. I am not an alcoholic but I know how it feels to need that pick-me-up to drown out the exhaustion and disappointment from pretending to be something you’re not to pay those bills, and to commiserate yet another wasted day of your life.
As I watch the onscreen demise of this character Travers Goff, so similar to me, inevitably I end up fearing for myself. I see his desperation, his unhappiness, his feelings of failure, his dependency on escapism to cope. He has no choice but to carry on doing what he must do: we see it is clearly destroying him but without a personality transplant (or a sudden inheritance enabling him to retire early) he is powerless to end up anywhere other but destroyed. That is how I fear my own journey will end sometimes.
But I can and do work on positive thinking, on acceptance, on gratitude. I do work on moving into work that will be better for me. I keep fighting. If others are right and I am too weak to cope in the real world, then I need to make the real world work for me.