Exactly one year ago, I started a journey that changed my life forever. Being a Cast Member in Disney World in Orlando, Florida was full of challenges and blessings; it shaped me so much in such a short time. I've been asked about The Disney College Program quite a few times, so I compiled a few of my most valuable Disney lessons in this post! I was PhotoPass, stationed in Hollywood Studios. I was there for the closing of the Great Movie Ride and for the announcement of Toy Story Land and Galaxy's Edge. I made children smile on the hottest days, and I hugged and celebrated families on the most magical days. I made magic for amazing guests, kept my temper around not-so amazing guests, and lost my composure in the car after a hard day's work more times that I care to count. Here are a few things I've learned and have carried with me after the "See You Real Soon" faded out of my rearview mirror (besides the Disney point, of course):
1. Everyone Has A Story:
Being in Entertainment Department of Disney gave me a chance to meet a LOT of guests. I got a lot of hugs and autographs from sparkly little princesses and strong Jedi Warriors alike. I had an opportunity to celebrate and empathize in the stories of SO many families-- some joyful, some not so joyful. From behind the camera, I learned about Christmastime traditions of families across the globe, about love stories new and old, about celebrations of life, about miracles being performed, and about families and friends coming together. From the streets of Hollywood, I learned the struggles of strangers and friends and learned that people can and will surprise you. Being a strange ear on the street can have amazing power, and I've carried those stories with pride and honor into my current life-- which is not quite as sweaty or "magical". BUT I've brought magic into my current role by taking a little time to learn stories of those I encounter. More often than not, I'm surprised by what I learn.
2. Self-Care Is Important, But So Is Hard Work:
I always tell those who ask me about my time as a cast member that my time as a Photo Pass Photographer was the most rewarding and challenging chapters of my life. My program took a toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but I grew to value a day of hard work. I've always been competitive and been one to strive for a job well done, but I never enjoyed the process of the hard work (never was a fan of sweating, really). Working to make others' vacations worthwhile taught me to enjoy the process of a long day. However, the toll was high, because there were days I was too sore to get out of bed. I was too emotionally and mentally drained to invest in my roommates. It was then that I learned that it is so important to decompress and take self-care seriously. Sleep is important. Bubble baths and quiet times with Jesus are important. Taking time to invest in yourself is SO important, and I definitely took that lesson with me to the chamber of commerce in which I work now. Value a great day of productivity, but also recognize when your body needs rest.
3. A Smile Goes as Long Way:
There are tons of studies done on smiling. It really does increase your mood! Something I took with me from Disney is the importance of "Faking It Until You Make It". I promise this post isn't as complain-y as it is honest--- which is something I really try to be with my readers. Deciding to be a smiley cast member and truly looking past the trials of the job (which really translates in any job in which you find yourself) can really transform an entire day! It's incredible the effect a smile can have on your own mood and on the mood of others.
4. Be Present:
This one makes me SO thankful for my time at Disney. There are so many adventures and memories that I took home with me from my time in Orlando. I made friends that will last a lifetime. As a cast member, no matter the length of time, changes your life because I LIVED in the Happiest Place on Earth. Not only was I living my best life and soaking in every second-- good or bad-- I was watching countless families do the same behind the lens of a camera. Since my time there, I've carried that mindset into my every day life. I also take WAYYYY more pictures than I used to, if you can believe it.
5. Make Sure to Let People Know They Matter:
Whether it's a stranger or a friend, be intentional (how many more times could I possibly use that phrase??) Take the time. Don't be so self important that you can't help someone when they need you. Offer help before you're asked. Make sure your friends feel important. Let your family know how much you love them. Write a note and snail-mail it to someone who needs some encouragement. Living so far away from home really taught me how important it is to be open-hearted with people. Just be nice!
6. Don't Take Life Too Seriously
This one is my favorite because all I reminisce on is the laughs and dance moves my best friend from Disney and I would share during the Disney DJ Dance Parties we would attend. Sweat pouring (because Florida), we would sing and laugh through the parks, taking photos of each other for fun. It's okay to be funny. It's okay to be silly. It's okay to not have all of the answers-- life has a strange way of working itself out.
My time at Disney World was absolutely pivotal. I'll never forget the times I had or the lessons I learned. It's shaped my life as a functional adult (let's pretend) in the "real world", and I'll be forever thankful for my six months there!
Did I leave something out that you wanted to hear about? Let me know!!