2018 Year in Review: Part One

2018 Year in Review: Part One

This is part one in my year in review content.

Five hundred twenty-five six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year in a life?

A friend recently reminded me of these lyrics and as 2018 comes to a close, I find this on my mind.  2018 was a great year, but how do I describe it in the context of my life? How do I measure all of the experiences from this year?

To preface, I ended 2017 feeling lost and confused.  I felt like I had lost my sense of self, like for the first time in my life, I had no idea where I was going.  All I knew was that I wanted to change directions: I wanted to find myself, to rebuild, to be better. Looking back month by month at 2018, I am sure that that lost and confused girl would smile at what a year did.

Here’s part one of my year in review:

January: The year started off in the place that would be the most influential spot of the year, Magic Kingdom.  On this last family trip before my College Program began, I knew that Disney World would give me an adventure, but I had no idea how much this program would change my life.  The month progressed with me having a bit of dead time that I spent enjoying home and New York. During this time, I volunteered with my high school’s speech and debate team and saw some wonderful old friends.  These days were some of the most important of the year. They reconnected me to my younger self, one that had passion and drive. They connected me to a version of myself that had no doubt I would change the world for the better.  The month concluded with the beginning of an adventure: I moved to Orlando, Florida and into my apartment at Vista Way on January 29. These last days of January are some of my favorites: they brought me three of my greatest friends, Kelsey, Beth Anne, and Destiny.  These girls, my roommates, have become my rocks and I treasure our friendships.

February: February began with some roommate bonding and exploring of our new neighborhood.  Beth Anne mapped out for us a day to go hotel hopping around the Disney resorts and the day ended with us eating dole whips by the pool at the Polynesian– in my opinion, that is how all good days should end.  Two days later, my Disney adventure truly began, as Destiny and I went through our Traditions (Disney orientation) together and got our park admission (aka the key to the kingdom, quite literally). I spent my first days off exploring the parks alone and my first days of work going through training, following by spontaneous roommate trips to the parks at night.  I look back so fondly at these first days: the magic was so alive and vivid. February also brought me one of my favorite people in the entire world, Julie. Julie and I worked together and after our last day of training, Julie asked me to go to Magic Kingdom with her that night. That one question formed a most wonderful friendship. For the rest of the month, Julie and I were practically inseparable and spent all of our days off exploring parks together.

March: March brought my first family visit and I was so happy to see them and show them around my new home.  The rest of the month can be summarized by the arrival of new friendships. I grew closer with my coworkers and I felt the magic in Disney changed.  No longer was the magic from the place, but rather the people I got to spend every day with. I could not get enough of these people: we worked together for forty hours a week and I still wanted to spend every moment off with them.  These park adventures we went on together were some of the most random, unplanned, yet magical days I had my entire program. I cannot say enough times how much I love my coworkers and friends I made at Disney: they are my Ohana.

 

April: March ended and April opened with festivities: Destiny turned 20!  We celebrated in appropriate Disney fashion: with a character breakfast.  The month continued with hang-outs with my amazing coworkers and one of my favorite days of my entire program: a day spent at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival with Beth Anne and a good friend of mine from work, Sadia.  I mention this day specifically because it was so wonderful: the three of us spent hours together, laughing, joking, and eating at every country in the world showcase. It was the definition of pure bliss. This day was shortly followed by a very special family visit– they were here to celebrate my dad’s birthday and my sister even came along: we had so much fun celebrating together.  The latter parts of the month were spent trying to take advantage of the parks as much as possible and spend time with friends, as my departure date of May 17 started to creep closer. It was in this time that I found Disney and Orlando had become a home to me.

 

May: May was a month of many tears and goodbyes.  As my departure day approached and many friends departed before me, I found myself realizing how much this program had meant to me.  It gave me people who truly loved me and appreciated me. It gave me people who had magic within them and they gave some of that magic to me.  Together, we were able to make the world a little bit happier. I tearfully walked through Magic Kingdom in those last days, staying on Main Street with friends until we could stay no longer, passing by every cart I had worked at with a wistful look in my eye, and watching Happily Ever After, the fireworks show that had lit up my workdays.  I cried as I turned in my key and took one last look at Vista Way, the place that had been my home since January. I knew as I drove away that this place had changed me. I would miss it and the people dearly.

 

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Oh, I Believe in Yesterday

Oh, I Believe in Yesterday

Sometimes, we just wish for the past.  There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with our present, but something in us longs for an era gone by.  That’s the nostalgia kicking in.

My week started off with a midterm on Monday and has been followed by a packed schedule of interning, tutoring students, and juggling my extracurriculars with my academics.  It’s one of those weeks where there’s nothing really bad happening, but it still feels overwhelming. To add to matters, I’ve been starting to feel stir-crazy at school, just wanting to get out of Washington, D.C. for a little while and breathe.  What is this all the perfect recipe for? A lot of nostalgia for my Disney College Program.

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Working at Storybook Circus with two of my favorite people, Abbey and Amanda

My time at Disney wasn’t perfect and yet, there is nothing more that I yearn for at this moment.  I’m craving the winter days spent at water parks, the days spent laying on the Hub grass with a view of Cinderella Castle, and the unexpected perfectness of random days spent eating all the food Epcot had to offer.  It’s been six months since my program ended and as I’ve finally gotten used to school again, my time in Disney feels like nothing more than a fantasy I created. It’s become my perfect dream.

As I think about my time at Disney and this craving I have right now to go back, I wonder: is it the place I wish for or is it the people?  I have not seen many of my friends for six months now, with no end date to this separation in sight. As I think of the days I am looking at nostalgically, I realize it’s the people who make the stories so beautiful.

It’s ranting with Kelsey over noodles and ice cream.  It’s car rides home, singing Taylor Swift, with Julie. It’s the long talks at 2 AM with Destiny.  It’s gossiping with Sadia. It’s the smiles (and groans) that were shared with Jordan as we passed each other during a work day.  It’s the photoshoots with Jenn. It’s the laughter in the kitchen with Beth Anne. It’s the adventures with Kelly. It’s the random late nights with my coworkers who became my best friends.

I could go on for years, listing the name of each person who made my time at Disney so special.  I realize now that it’s not the Magic Kingdom nor the rollercoasters, not even Mickey or Minnie that I’m so badly craving and am nostalgic for.  It’s my people.

When it comes to feeling nostalgic, I think it’s important not to push those feelings away.  You long for a time for a reason: find that real reason, not just the surface one. However, don’t dwell on your longing.  You cannot live in the past and if you do, you miss out on the present.

I am grateful for my college program and I am so grateful for the people it brought into my life.  However, I will not dwell on my longing to be back in a day gone by. Rather, I will think of my friends and know that as Mickey always says, I’ll see ya real soon.

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What Do You Say to Taking Chances?

What Do You Say to Taking Chances?

I’ll admit, I like to play things safe.  I like to know the outcome before I throw the dice.  I don’t leap without looking. Everything in my life is perfectly planned out well in advance and I’m prepared for every situation.

Life doesn’t always stick to our plans though– it has its own ideas of what we should be doing.  

Sometimes, we have to be willing to throw the plans away and let life lead the way.

That’s what I learned one year ago, when on a whim, I applied for the Disney College Program.  I’ve often been asked why I applied– the answer is I don’t know. The summer before I applied, I told my parents I could never apply because it didn’t fit in my perfect plan I had for my college years and yet, when I sat down at my laptop last October and applied, that perfect plan didn’t seem to matter for a moment.

I never thought that I would get into the Disney College Program and then, I did.  I had three days to decide whether or not to continue on my planned road or to get off the beaten track.  Being someone who does not like risk, I can say that I shocked everyone, including me, when I made the decision to take a semester off of Georgetown to move to Orlando to intern with Disney.

I will always be grateful that I took that huge leap of faith.  Disney pushed me to be uncomfortable and try something completely new.  I had never worked a job like I did at Disney, I had never been so far away from my family, and I had never been in a city before where I knew absolutely no one.  This discomfort pushed me to grow as a person and I walked out in May with such a sense of clarity on who I was, what I wanted in my future, and what was important to me.

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It takes people to make the dream a reality -Walt Disney

None of that growth would have happened if I hadn’t taken the original risk of applying to this program and then choosing to pursue it.  I gained so many great experiences and an amazing support system while in Disney, and it is almost insane to think now that none of that would have happened if I had done what I usually do and stuck to the plan.  It had been a dream of mine forever, but I assumed it could only be just that: a dream.

 

Life’s best experiences happen when we don’t expect them and aren’t ready.  They require us to put down the to-do lists and life plans (yes, I actually had a document entitled life plan on my computer that mapped out the next five years of my life).  They ask that we have faith that everything will work out just fine. They only happen if we stop trying to plan the future and accept the unknown.

 

All we need for them to happen is a little bit of faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.

 

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Who would have thought where my path would lead would be Walt Disney World?