On This Day (Belated)

So, we made it. Or…I made it.

Wednesday of this week marked one year since I left for the most amazing journey of my life so far. Little did I know at the time, but this six month journey would teach me so much about who I was as a person and it would change my life as I know it.

I’ve been mulling over what I want this post to be- a reflection, a memory, a tear-jerker, a thank you. As I’m sitting here at Cafe Diem(switching it up this week!) the origin story seems to be rolling from my fingertips, the moments that led me there are asking to be told. I suppose the least I can do is follow my heart where it wants to lead.

Of course I grew up watching Disney movies, watching the Disney Channel, and singing along to the VHS tapes I had. We even took a trip to Disney World when I was 10 which I absolutely loved, but I suppose the real journey started my Freshman year when I found a flyer for the college program in one of my lecture halls. I had never given previous thought to working at Disney, and I suppose I didn’t even imagine that it was an option. However, after reading the flyer, I thought it would be a really interesting opportunity, and decided to apply. There are three steps to the college program application process: the first step is filling out your basic information, after that you are sent a Web Based Interview, or WBI, which is a survey of questions that help to determine if you would be a good fit before you actually talk to someone. If you pass through the WBI, then you get a phone interview. On my first pass through the application process, I didn’t get farther than the WBI. Now, at this time I was 18, I had never held a real job, and I had almost no customer service experience. It’s no wonder looking back now that I didn’t move forward, but it was still a disappointment at the time.

“Disney doesn’t want me?” was the thought that ran through my head, and while I was saddened, I never quite forgot about the program. The years passed by, and I would see those flyers in lecture halls and dorms and at the library, so it was always at the back of my mind. If I believe that the Universe is calling me to people and places, which I do, then looking back now it’s evident that the Universe was calling me to Disney. My junior year, someone in my sorority had the chance to go on the program. Her pictures on Facebook and her stories when she returned sparked a new interest in me. I remembered applying a few years before, and I resolved to try again, this time with her help. I read about all of the roles, I watched videos on youtube, I read blogs and I marked the day in my planner when applications opened for the Spring program: August 31 (I can tell you the exact date only because I remember the sequence of events and I have a handy-dandy calendar on my phone, not because I was so completely obsessed!) The 31st was a Monday, so when I got home from my meeting that evening, I jumped online and filled out my application. I was immediately sent the WBI and I hesitated: I didn’t pass before, what if I don’t pass through this time? Little did I know that I had the whole Universe on my side. I filled out the WBI, much more confident in my answers than I had been four years ago, and pressed submit. The next morning I checked and found the email offering me a phone interview. I was so excited, and by Friday afternoon of that same week, I had officially completed the entire application process. All that was left was the waiting. And there was a lot of it.

Disney not only challenged me as a person while I was there, but it came at a perfect time in my life in Ames. Everything in its own perfect timing. The very weekend following my interview, my serious relationship dissolved and I was left devastated. Disney became the farthest thing from the front of my mind, and I filled my time with friends and school activities, anything to keep me busy. I had all but forgotten that I had applied, and then one November afternoon shortly before Thanksgiving, I received the email:

Congratulations! You have been selected to participate in the Disney College Program!

WHAT?! I was at work that night, working in Wine and Spirits, and I swear that was the slowest shift of my entire life. When I finally got home, I didn’t even hardly think about it- I pressed accept, and filled out the necessary information, and I was on my way. Future relationships fell into place, sights and sounds experienced, memories that would last a lifetime, all of it placed neatly before me and I was just out of reach. As if it was all behind this enormous curtain just waiting to drop. The next three months were excruciating. It was more waiting, but this time I knew I had something amazing to look forward to and I just wanted to begin. I finished my semester at Iowa State, I had time to say goodbye to all of my friends, and I counted down the days.

And boy was I terrified.

I had never been that far from home on my own for that long. The weight of this decision loomed over me as the day for my departure grew closer, and I even started to doubt myself. How was I supposed to leave everyone I knew and loved to go do this silly thing? Why did I think it would be great to move so far away? What if everyone moved on without me? Finally the day arrived and most of my fears had been quelled, thanks to amazing friends and family who supported me every single step of the way. My flight left at 1:35pm on February 8th, and my parents and best friend accompanied me to the airport. Ascending the stairs was terrifying and freeing all at once, and when I was finally seated on my first airplane, the emotions rolled over me. The fear and nervousness I had been keeping at bay came rushing in and once I again I worried that I would fail. When my plane took off, it was -10 in Des Moines, and I cried a little because I was leaving my home. When I landed in Orlando at 9:00 that night, it was 53 and rainy and I was more excited than ever to begin my journey. I had traveled half-way across the country by myself, what couldn’t I handle? The next few days were chaotic and messy, stressful to say the least. For those of you who don’t know that story, you can read about it HERE.

Despite the rough start, the Disney College Program quickly became the best thing in my life. It was my new start, my new chance to be me. There weren’t ex-boyfriends around the corner, there weren’t expectations that I would finish school and know exactly what I wanted to do, there was only freedom and childish wonder. Coming home in August was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and I lived 1300 miles way from home for six months. I cried so much more leaving behind the place where I had found my happiness, but I knew I would be returning one day soon. And now it may be that I am gone for longer than I originally thought or planned for, but I have to trust that everything will be in its own perfect timing. I have Walt to thank for my happiness, for my freedom, for my desire and passion. Never in a million years would I have imagined that Disney World would be calling me so fiercely, and yet…

I am not so scared to leave my friends and family this time, because I know that they will remain with me no matter how far and wide I go. I am not so scared of the newness of adventure, because if I can handle the homesickness, the distance, and the great unknown that was Disney, then I know beyond a doubt that I am prepared for anything. The Universe is pulling me to return in 100 different ways, more now than it ever has before, and this excites me and spurs me forward. On this (belated) day one year ago, I stepped into a new chapter of my life, and I cannot wait to turn the page and see what the world has in store for me next.

Fun fact:When we visited Disney when I was 10, I got a picture next to this same Goofy statue,
so of course I needed a new one, even if I had been on a plane all day and it was almost 10 pm.


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