The last character I ever attended was Goofy at Epcot’s Character Spot. I was called to CSpot on my last day when I came in for my spare shift. The day passed by as usual and I turned in all of my costumes once I clocked out. It was a huge relief. I used my time after getting off work to explore Epcot one last time, and I ended up meeting up with Aurelie’s boyfriend and hanging out that afternoon with company instead of alone like I was expecting. It was a nice change of pace.
The next day, Sarah and I went to Hollywood Studios to spend the day exploring. I came to the realization that in all the time I had been in Disney World, I had not yet met Mickey Mouse. If I was going to meet him, it was going to be in Hollywood Studios while he was dressed as Sorcerer Mickey.
Sarah and I met with every character we could and took one of the drawing classes, which was super fun. We ended up drawing Dale.
It was a beautiful day. I think we had more fun hanging out in Hollywood Studios, watching baby ducklings learn how to swim in the lagoon, not worrying about making it to as many attractions as possible and just enjoying being there, than we’d had in any park we had gone to before then. We capped off the night at the pool and at about midnight, I found myself walking across the highway with Aurelie and her boyfriend for one last late-night meal together at Applebee’s. The entire day was perfect.
The next day, Tat joined Sarah and I on our next adventure. We were Blizzard Beach bound! This was the only location I had not been to yet in all of Disney World. Blizzard Beach trumped Typhoon Lagoon by a long shot. I loved the theming so much more, and it probably helped that I wasn’t alone. Their wave pool, which was not nearly as intense as Typhoon’s, was my favorite part and how we ended our day at the waterpark. We stayed until they kicked us out, haha. It was wonderful.
After that, we took an hour or so and relaxed at our apartment pool, swimming and laughing like the good friends we had become. We tried our best to look like Ariel by slapping our soaking wet hair through the air while in the pool, but I don’t think any of us succeeded at pulling it off. :P We just took our time and were in no hurry to get anywhere. I think we were all just happy to be spending time together.
Because it is what it is, I knew where I wanted my Disney experience to end. It was only appropriate to end things where they started at Magic Kingdom. That night, after all of us had cleaned ourselves up from our various swimming excursions, we caught a bus and were Magic Kingdom bound. We hit all of my favorite rides, except for Pirates, which we missed by about a minute due to park closing. Even so, I was able to end with my favorite ride in all of Disney World, Splash Mountain. We were so tired by the time we caught our bus home that things we quiet and I was desperate to fall asleep against one of the bus windows, which I did pretty successfully. We all knew what was coming the next day. Our friendship was going to be separated by distance.
The car ride is always the same. Whether I am on my way to the airport with Eric in my passenger seat, whether I am in his passenger seat, whether I am riding with my mom, knowing I will not see her or any of my family again for months, or whether I am leaving the friends I never expected to make and grow so close to during a miserable internship completely out of my comfort zone, the drive is always the same. Quiet, still, too short, and yet, too long. The tears are hiding behind your eyes and you worry that even the tiniest noise or movement will set them free. That car ride to the airport was the same, as it always is. I was leaving three very good friends behind and I was going home.
After reading this blog, you may still not understand what it was that I did not like about the Disney College Program. Some days, even I am not so sure what set me off about it so much. What it really comes down to, I think, is that working for Disney is simply not what I want to do with my life and so it felt like an empty use of energy that was not leading anywhere for me. Granted, I learned an enormous bit about myself. I got pushed through it and I made it. Most of all, I will never regret my experience. Whether I like it or not, I do think it changed my life. It brought out the best and worst side of me. It taught me that I can manage on my own and that I’ll be okay. And it taught me to, no matter what, do what I love, because Lord knows how torturous life can be when you do something you don’t even like. Did I know I was not going to like this job? No. I could have just as easily loved the job, but either way, it was worth finding out. Aside from the job, I will never forget the amazing friends I made. The “friends” part of the experience, in all honesty, I was not anticipating at all. I had prepared for the worst, but received the best.
If you have read all of this wondering if you should participate in the Disney College Program, I will tell you right now that everyone around you is going to tell you the same thing: “Do it! You get to live in Disney World! Lucky! That’s got to be the best job ever!” I can’t promise you that it won’t be amazing. I can’t promise you that it will be awful. My best advice is to go with your gut. If your gut tells you “you have to do this and find out!” then don’t ignore it. But, if your gut tells you “this really doesn’t seem right” don’t ignore that either. In the end, you have to block out what all the other people are telling you to do and listen to your heart. If you want to try it, try it! If not, move on and don’t worry about it. As I told Epcot when I was terribly sick, Epcot will survive. Disney will survive. You will survive. Don’t regret going and don’t regret not going. Just follow your heart. I spelled out my experience because I thought it deserved to be heard, but that does not mean your experience will be the same. There is only one way to find out and the choice is up to you. There is no wrong choice whether you decide to go or not. I hope this helps those struggling with the decision of whether or not to participate/audition for/apply for the Disney College Program.
To Aurelie, thank you for crying with me that very first night, giving me cookies, and letting me know that I was not insane for not loving the program.
To Tatiana, thank you for being so welcoming right from the beginning, talking with me when I was inches away from tears, making me laugh hysterically with your many stories, and for reminding me that not everything Disney is a bad thing. Thank you for the pancakes and for letting me steal milk from you too.
To Sarah, thank you for letting me drop the “Mae” in your name so casually, for not being named Layla to make my apt. life more difficult, for listening to me ramble on and on about Rhode Island (and Eric) even though you obviously know more about it, and for being my sidekick on so many random excursions. I thought I had already lucked out with two great friends, and then you came along and shocked me with your kindness and friendship (and that terrible movie you made me watch).
To Eric, You may never read this, but even so, thank you for enduring so many extremely difficult phone calls with me ranting relentlessly, sobbing into your ear, or taking my anger with my situation out on you. Hearing your voice, listening to you tell me about your day, or just knowing that you were on the other end of the phone helped me more than you could ever know. I will always love you for that and be forever grateful. Thank you for telling me I could do it.
To Big Bob, Thank you for letting me call you during many loud bus rides and for letting me begin every conversation with the same sentence (“I just don’t like it here”) every day for three months. Your comfort was always so helpful and I missed you so much. Thank you for being so understanding and for helping me through the entire program. I love you.
To everyone else who has read this blog, thank you for reading through all, or even just one, of these emotional journal entries. The fact that you spent any time reading this at all means so much to me. Thank you for being a friend.