Adulthood Part 3: Making Magical Memories

As promised, here is the latest and last part of my Adulthood Series–and I have a feeling it’s the one the majority of you have been waiting for the most.

Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to do the Disney College Program. Everything about it called to me–you work for Disney, get into the parks for free, and make lifelong friends and connections. So as soon as I had a college semester under my belt, I subscribed to DCP emails to get updates on applications deadlines.

But, life happens. I was a double major and a triple minor. I was a college athlete. I had two jobs. Taking a semester off to vacation work in Disney (without any chance of getting college credit) was out of the question. Needless to say, I was sad as I entered my senior year–working for Disney would remain just a dream.

And then I read the fine print.

“MOM! I can do the Disney College Program the year AFTER I graduate!! Applications are open!! I don’t have a job!! I’m applying!!!”

“That’s cool, Alessa.”

Fast forward two months and I call my parents again nearly in tears after getting an acceptance email–I was going to live in Disney for 5 months.

A little background is needed here. When I had my interview and applied for the program, I put my preference for a position known as a “hopper.” As described on the website, and the application, and everywhere else you look for info on the DCP, a hopper is cross-trained in any combination of multiple areas (attractions, custodial, F&B, etc). and essentially “hops” around. Obviously this appealed to me–I could potentially learn a little about a number of things. So when my acceptance email arrived saying I had been chosen to be a hopper, I was overjoyed.

roomiesI arrived in Orlando bright-eyed and eager to start my job and meet my roommates. I knew immediately that I would get along with my roommates. They were all sweet, caring, and fun to be around. And they all loved Disney just as much as I did! I found out what positions they had-F&B at Hollywood Studios, Character Attendant at EPCOT, Merchandising at Magic Kingdom, and Attractions at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom–and grew even more excited to find out what my first placement would be. One downside to accepting your program as a hopper is that you don’t know exactly what role you will have first until you arrive for orientation.

So I rushed to the orientation room to get my packet of info and opened it up:

Magic Kingdom-Attractions-Parking.

Parking?

My heart sank. I entered my apartment to my roommates excitedly unpacking and eager to find out my placement. “Parking,” I said, really trying to sound positive.

“Ohhhhhh. That’s…interesting,” was the general response. “I didn’t even know that was an option.”

Yeah, me either, I thought.

disneySince I signed on as a hopper, I held on to the hope that this was just a temporary position and decided to embrace the experience even though I was going to be spending (what I thought was going to be) a month working in a parking lot.

So I went through training, earned my ears, got my costume, and discovered rather quickly that my hours and time in parking lot were going to be long and unending. Most of my shifts started around 4 or 5 in the evening and lasted until 2 or 3 in the morning (except the occasional 5 am clock-out time–Yay for Christmas!). This meant that my dreams of spending all of my free time in the parks remained just that–dreams. I was too exhausted to wake up early to go in the morning and too afraid I would wear myself by going in the afternoon before work.

As October and November rolled around I realized that changing positions was probably not going to happen–the Magic Kingdom Parking Lot was going to be my Disney home. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say it turned out to be the best job ever–it wasn’t.

But I’m also not going to lie to myself and say I didn’t have fun sometimes.

piratesI was still able to get to the parks on my days off and still managed to make memories with my roommates, and new BF (yes, I met my boyfriend in Disney World, be jealous) by the pool and in the parks when I could. I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, got to ride Star Wars with only three people on my ship, saw Fantasmic as many times as I wanted, rode Tower of Terror too many times to count, kicked butt in Toy Story Midway Mania, and got really cheap souvenirs. My friends and family got into the parks for free, I became an expert pin trader, and I sang Disney songs a cappella with a group of friends while waiting in line for Space Mountain. I rode all the kiddie rides I had never done before, enjoyed the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival (probably a little too much), rode Soarin’ as often as I could, and watched the Wishes firework show every single night.

ParkingMy job wasn’t the best, but I finished my shifts most nights knowing that I was one of the last people to see Magic Kingdom at night. I got to drive a long, snake-like tram and make corny jokes to guests over a microphone and force them to laugh. I had amazing managers, coordinators and co-workers. The CP’s I worked with in Parking were amazing, funny, outstandingly optimistic people and I know I wouldn’t have made it through my program if my co-workers weren’t such cool people.

So was my time working for Mickey Mouse everything I dreamed of? Not exactly.

But I did leave the Happiest Place on Earth with some pretty awesome souvenirs:

25 New pins for my collection

20 Lifelong friends

5 T-Shirts

4 New Mickey ears

1 Amazing, kind, loving, Disney Prince of my own

And countless, unforgettable, magical memories with Disney lovers just like me.

roomiers

Thanks for reading!

Growing Older, But Not Up

“That’s the trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.”

–Walt Disney

Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 22nd birthday. This means I can fully appreciate everything Buzzfeed says is great about being 22 (pardon the profanity) and sing TSwift’s “22” with real gusto now (at least, I would if I liked TSwift even just a little). This week, I officially registered for what could be my last semester of school, applied for graduation, and sent in my resume for a professional internship with Disney Publishing.

All of this can only mean one thing: I’m one year closer to that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing called adulthood. Bills, jobs, taxes, actually paying for a round of golf–it’s a scary world! A (very small) part of me is looking forward to it, but for the most part I spend every day waiting for Michael J. Fox and Doc to appear and take me back to 2004 in a Delorean (1985 would work, too!) so that I can delay growing up for just a little bit longer.

One of the most common questions I get (more than I care to admit, actually) is why I love Disney so much: “Don’t you think you are a little old for that?” Most of the time I shake it off and adamantly and vehemently say, “No, I know many 22-year olds who still watch Disney movies while they drink Disney hot tea brewed in their Disney French press in a Disney coffee cup while wearing Disney slippers. It’s perfectly normal.” This is usually followed by an uncomfortable laugh and some variation of “Well, isn’t that cute.” This shouldn’t bother me. And for the most part it doesn’t. But my obsession with  love of Disney is based on so much more on just the movies or the princesses or even *shudder* Mickey Mouse.

December 2013. Proof that I still haven't grown up.

December 2013. Proof that I still haven’t grown up.

Loving all things Disney is the last somewhat socially acceptable way for me to hold on to my childhood. For an hour and half I can sit and speak and sing along to movies and songs I know all too well and feel like I am eight eight years old again. It’s the only thing I can do to help me forget that I am about to embark on a scary-wonderful journey and that life as I know it is going to change–hopefully for the better, but a change nonetheless. I can pretend to be Belle or Ariel or Jasmine and forget that I have my own new world to discover.

But most importantly, these movies (and everything else in the Disney universe) are reminders that even though I may be growing older, I don’t have to grow up.  Ironically enough, Disney’s blog website, Oh My Disney, seems to agree with me.I can face adulthood with a child’s imagination, a young heart, and teenage angst. I can conquer the world head on and know that it’s OK (even expected) for me to fail sometimes. If this is a good enough mentality for Walt Disney, it’s good for me, too.

So, a word of encouragement to some of my fellow college seniors. We are going to get through this. Adulthood is going to be awesome. It’s going to be scary; it’s going to be hard; and it’s going to shake us up, but if we all remember that adulthood doesn’t mean we have to lose our youthful outlook on life then this final semester and everything that comes after it will be amazing.

After all, to tweak a Walt quote, “Adults are only kids grown older, anyway.”

Lost in a Disney World

Another school year has come and gone which means I get to spend another 3 months catching up on my personal reading list! Even though I haven’t blogged since the first week of May, I’ve already been able to cross two books off of my list–both of which made me want to go back Disney World (OK, let’s be honest, I always want to be in Disney World). Anyway, I’ve finished Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination by Neal Gabler and the final installment of Ridley Pearson’s The Kingdom Keepers series.

Gabler’s biography won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography in 2006 and has received much praise as the definitive biography on Walt Disney. I actually started this book back in December when I went to Disney World for Christmas vacation, but time ran away from me and I wasn’t able to finish the 800-page monster until May. It was well worth the time it took to read it. Rather than just documenting the hard facts and figures of Disney’s life, Gabler probes into Disney’s psyche and attempts to show the reader the darker side of Walt Disney without completely damaging the image of “Uncle Walt” people know and love. Although the chronology is a bit jumpy at times, the formula of the book shows how Disney’s mind worked–he was constantly working on multiple projects and was always thinking about future films and ideas. Disney was a perfectionist and spent much of his career attempting to reach the perfection he achieved in Snow White and always falling short.IMG_1261

As a Disney fanatic, I was afraid Gabler was going to damage my vision of Uncle Walt–Disney was known for his short temper and at times downright cruelty to his employees. Instead, I came to understand why Disney acted this way and found a deeper appreciation for his vision and creativity. I don’t usually cry at the end of biographies–especially if the subject has already died. This book was so well written, however, that I was in tears when I turned the last page. I highly recommend Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination to all Disney fans or anyone interested in the Walt Disney company.

Pearson’s The Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider is the last installment in the series–one that I have been reading since middle school. I was anxious to see if the Keepers would finally defeat the Overtakers and bring the Disney magic back into the parks. I had my qualms about this book from the beginning, however. Pearson let fans help write parts of the book through an online contest, so I was worried that the quality of writing and the plot would get lost. Most of the time the transition from Pearson to fan worked well, but it was hard to ignore some sections with strained metaphors and over-dramatic prose. Then again, this is a book written for people much younger than me, so I really can’t be too critical.

I’d like to say that the plot saved the book from being disappointing, but sadly, I can’t. Maybe it’s because I built this book up too much. Maybe it’s because I knew exactly how I wanted it to end. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading this series for so long I was sad to see it end. Whatever it was, I wasn’t happy. Questions were left unanswered, riddles were left unsolved and relationships were left undefined. It almost felt like Pearson copped out on his readers–he didn’t want to give us the ending we wanted but then was afraid he would make us angry by letting the bad guys win. It made for a confusing and highly disappointing ending. One that made reading the series almost pointless.

But then again, reading is never pointless.

Next up:

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Thanks for reading!