It’s crazy how some experiences can change you for life. Whether it is something that happens just for a moment, a day, or in my case a summer, one thing’s for sure, it becomes difficult to return to the past.
This summer, I worked for The Walt Disney Company in Orlando. More specifically, I worked in one of the four main parks of The Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot. I was working in merchandising; simultaneously learning about how to promote, market and sell products. On my days off, I was park hopping with friends, trying out new restaurants, visiting various and beautifully fashioned resorts, enjoying the warm sun and living in a state of bliss. However, it wasn’t an ignorant state. Work could be tiring, being deployed to other parks (i.e. Magic Kingdom) was stressful, and it was too soon that I realized that living in Disney World wasn’t all smiles all the time. Having a job where your objective is to create happiness might sound easy– but it wasn’t always. However, most times, it was also extremely rewarding.
This brings me to a theory that I have about Disney. You either get it, or you don’t (and I have seldom seen an in between). Living on the property, you encounter mostly people who get it. The friends that I made in Florida understood how I felt. It was this overwhelming feeling of happiness along with something else that you can’t quite put your finger on – and sometimes it felt terrifying because I knew that the bubble that had become my home would some day be popped by reality.
I would be lying to say that I didn’t bawl the last 3 days of my time at Disney. I cried in the break room during work, on the bus going home after my last shift, during my last time watching Wishes (the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom), in my apartment, on the plane back to Toronto, you name a place I was in the last 72 hours of being in Orlando, and I probably cried there.
The return home to Toronto was bittersweet. Everything I was coming home to was the same as it was before, however I was not. I had spent a summer of making guests so happy they would tear-up, and having heartfelt conversations with families who came from across the world from places like Australia and Qatar to reunite with their family for only a week before they would be separated again. I had made a group of friends who had become my family and I was terrified at the prospect of never seeing them again.
I have a strange sense of sympathy towards everyone at home who can’t see the beauty of everything this amazing company brings forward in every single thing that it does. You don’t need to visit Disney World or work there to see and experience the magic that it creates.
I hope one day to return to the company that undoubtedly changed my life, but what I have figured out is that it’s important to live in the now. I learned that it doesn’t matter that others don’t understand how you feel about something. As long as you have the experience, opportunities and memories of something great – that’s all that’s really important. You don’t need the validation of anyone to find happiness in any aspect of your life, whether it be through work, your relationships or otherwise.
In the mean time (before my inevitable return to the sunshine state), I get to live in my country’s capital, Ottawa, with my friends and family, surrounded by stunning architecture, diverse and beautiful people, free healthcare and A LOT less humidity than Florida – so I think that I’ll survive. But if you ask me in two months when there’s snow up to my ears – I can’t promise I’ll feel the same way.
If you’ve ever worked at any Disney park (or plan to), and would like to share your experiences, thoughts and questions with me, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org