Just writing the title of this post hurt a little bit. Now, you’re probably thinking “stop being so dramatic” or “we’re tired of hearing about this” blah blah blah. But honestly, working at Walt Disney World was, and will always be, a huge part of my life, and who I’ve become as a person. Moving home, I’m finding it really difficult to be able to express, or even just talk about my time at Disney. In Orlando, I could relate to nearly anybody surrounding me, but back home I just don’t have that kind of outlet. My parents have heard my stories a million times, friends don’t care to hear about it, and if I start talking to a stranger about it, I just end up talking in a loop. It’s not because I don’t want to talk about it, I’m just finding it so difficult to be able to relate to people. So here I am. Writing about it. It’s been about a month now since I left, and I’ve had a lot of time to process a lot of emotions. So brace yourselves friends, I predict this is going to be one long post…
I never formally announced it here on my blog, but I did in fact, leave The Walt Disney Company. I am no longer a Disney Cast Member, and I no longer live in Orlando, Florida. Let me be blunt, it sucked to leave. Many tears were shed. But I knew that where I wanted to be, no longer matched where I currently was. I was missing family, and I wasn’t saving money. I LOVED being a Photopass Photographer with all my heart, but I realized it was time for me to move on…
I learned a lot of things during my time as a Floridian, so lemme break it down:
Working. Working in one of the world’s largest tourist destinations, absolutely changed the way I worked. Both as a merchandise and a photopass cast member, my work ethic drastically changed from any previous jobs I had held. One of the biggest changes was the sheer volume and pace I had to work at. Working right in the middle of Main Street USA is no joke folks. And on holidays? It was nice knowing you. As for guest service? Nobody does it like Disney. It taught me it’s more than ok to bend over backwards for someone, even if I’m not going to be directly benefitting anything. That even translates to my current job. I just want to make people happy, and I think that will forever be drilled into my soul.
Relationships. One of the things I am most proud of, is that I moved to Florida not knowing a single soul. And not only that, but I didn’t just pack up and leave after my internship. I stayed another 2 and a half years. I created a family there. Friends who cared about me more than I even thought possible in such a short amount of time. They supported me, and lifted my spirits. They let me show my goofy self without fear of judgement. They are friends I am going to have for a lifetime. But another thing I learned living down there, is sometimes relationships change, and not for the better. I learned when, and how, to let go of a friendship. No matter how close you once were. If I came across a toxic friendship in my life, I no longer felt the need to mend it, or to hang onto it for dear life. I learned it’s ok to let friends go. In no way does that make it easy, but sometimes to grow, you have to grow on your own. Whether it be old friends back home, or friends you’ve only had for a few months. If the relationship is no longer a positive one, and it can’t be mutually mended, it’s time to move on. Before I moved to Disney, I was a very temperamental person. I could get upset about something in the drop of a hat. But going through all those relationship changes, helped me to grow and change as a person. I can sort my feelings out, without blowing up. (But hey. I’m still human. I have my moments.) But how I deal with relationships it’s one of the biggest ways I changed. I’m proud of the person I’ve become. And I am beyond thankful for my Florida family. They took care of me when my own family was thousands of miles away, and they supported me in ways I didn’t even know I needed.
Money. Now this can be a touchy subject to open up about, but here it goes anyways. I struggle a lot with money management, and working at Disney World did not help my case. All the adorable and fun merchandise, the cool excursions and events you could go to. An annual pass to that *other* theme park… Also rent was expensive, and I struggled to find affordable places to live without having tons of roommates. Props to the people who live in big groups. Because after college, I just couldn’t do it anymore. But as much as I struggled to manage my money, it also taught me just how much help I needed to get my finances under control. My parents and my sister both really helped me get things to be more manageable, but in all honesty, it’s still something I’m working on.
Believing. Just believing in all sorts of things. The magic, hope, the future, myself. Magical moments were some of the best parts of my job. Seeing kids faces light up, or going out of my way to do something for a particular family, or taking photos of proposals. Believing in hope. Hoping for bigger and better things, and being able to stay positive even when things got tough. Believing I’ve got a bright future waiting for me, even if it’s not necessarily working for Disney. And just being able to believe in myself, and my choices. Being confident in the person I’ve become and where I’m going in life. I know, it all sounds so cheesy. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Just being able to stay positive, and believe in myself and where I’m going. One of the biggest reasons I gave up working a job I absolutely adored, was in the hope of ultimately moving to Denver, Colorado. I’m believing and full of hope, that by leaving Disney, I can end up there faster than if I would have rode it out down there. I believe that leaving was the right decision for me no matter how difficult it was. Even if I’m only temporarily back in Chicago, I’m hoping for a bright Colorado future.
Open-Minded. I would definitely not consider myself to be close-minded, but working in such a diverse place taught me so much. Having lived in Orlando during the PULSE shooting, was unimaginable. So many people I worked and was friends with were so directly effected by it. It wasn’t some news story. I was a tangible place I drove past on a weekly basis. But the love and support the people and the city of Orlando showed the LGBTQ community, was so heartwarming. There are so many different, amazing, beautiful people in the world, and such violence is so cruel and unnecessary. Then all the different cultures I got to see and experience. I know more about Puerto Rican/ Hispanic/ Latino/ Portuguese cultures than I ever thought I would know. The friends I made that opened my eyes to the beauty (and delicious food) and the hardships they deal with every day. How the Disney community came together in support of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was amazing. Just the love and care everyone had for each other is what made having a Disney family so magical. No matter what you believed in, how you were raised, or what you looked like mattered. We were one. We were in this together. Even just being open-minded about trying new things. I ate fish for the first time in years! I went on rides I never thought I’d go on. I put myself in social situations I would’ve backed out on in a heart beat. It’s given me so much confidence to put my best foot forward, try new things, and hear things out before passing any judgement or making assumptions. Being open-minded is such an uplifting, and freeing feeling.
Now if you’ve read this far, cheers to you pal. You got the experience of reading some fresh Andi feelings. Some of it happy, and some of it more somber. I’m one big ball of feelings. Call it Disney withdrawal, call it being emotional. It’s just a lot of what’s going on up in my head, and my thoughts and feelings after working and living in such a magical place and how I’m doing now. Which in all honesty, I’ve been better. Moving back home has not been easy, and has been pretty lonely. I like my new job, but it will never be what Disney was. Friendships have grown, changed, or been lost all together. But here I sit. Typing away late into the evening, just trying to sort out and process all these thoughts and feelings. I could probably keep typing out more, but my goal was to try and streamline some of these thoughts. So with that, I’ll leave you all with a little nugget of wisdom I once read somewhere on the internet:
“Happiness is a choice, not an emotion.”