Monday, January 23, 2012

My Home Away From Home

As many of us did, I grew up watching Disney movies, watching the Disney Channel, and going to Walt Disney World with my family on vacation. We went to WDW as a family twice (and Disneyland once when I was too young to remember), and both times it was an experience I will never forget--even after all these years. My dad went for the first time when he was about the age I am now (the Disneyland trip I can't remember outside of pictures and a few blurry memories). He still talks about how much it meant to him to go--how awestruck he was with all the "magic". I formed some of my greatest childhood memories at WDW with my family and reliving the trip through pictures and stories over the years. All my dad and I could talk about was how much we wanted to go back. Actually, to this day my dad can say to me "I wanna go back", and I know exactly where he wants to go, and I agree I also want to go back to truly the "Happiest Place on Earth."

So when I was 21 years young and the opportunity presented itself, I applied for an internship to "go back" and work at the magical place that I hold so dear to my heart. Through some miracle I was accepted among the thousands that applied and January 2008 I loaded up my Pontiac Sunfire, and we (my Dad, stepmom, and sister Perri) hauled my car behind my brother's truck the 1155 miles from small town Oklahoma all the way to big ol Orlando, Florida where I would live, alone for the first time in my life, for the next seven months. Just being there was the greatest dream come true and most overwhelming feeling of my entire life. I couldn't believe I would be working where Mickey Mouse works. Even now it is humbling to think I was a part of something so big. I was in part the reason some families had a "magical" vacation rather than a mediocre one.

The day I moved into my Florida apartment (four years ago yesterday) was so exciting and scary at the same time. I lived with five other girls in a three bedroom/two bathroom apartment--yes, we got to know each other very well, very fast. I made some of my very best friends in that short seven months. To this day there are people that I met at Disney (some still live there), that I can call up, and they'll be there for me any time of day no matter what--which ironically is more than I can say about most of the people I am "friends" with here. I look back at that time in my life and realize how much it taught me about myself, my independence, and my ability to "make it." I grew up a lot while I was gone. It was a great opportunity for me to "find myself" and learn enough about what makes me happy (rather than trying to make everyone else happy).

The day I "graduated" from the Disney College Program--August 2008

Strangely, being that far away I also grew closer to my family--I guess it's true that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Then, I moved back home to Oklahoma, and it was bittersweet. I sure did miss my family and the stars in the big Oklahoma sky; however, it was so hard to say good-bye--I left a piece of my heart in Orlando the day I left. I will never be the same as I was before I left home in January; I am forever changed...for the better I believe. My heart stays with my friends and the happiness I hadn't felt in awhile before that wonderful experience. I owe so much gratitude to Orlando and Disney for helping me become "me." So that when I came home, I am now a happier person and more confident in the woman I have become. It's amazing how seven months and nearly 1200 miles can change so much in a person's life. They say home is where the heart and most of mine is here in Oklahoma with my family and AJ, but a piece will forever remain at Disney--my home away from home.


  1. It was so much fun! I just wish it didn't cost so much to fly down there or I'd go for weekends sometimes. lol. I still have friends down there so I get pretty good deals on mostly anything I want to do. I love it!

  2. Did you know my husband, Brian, and your step mom, Shelly, are cousins? I'm always so slow at making those connections.

  3. I knew that you and shelley are friends on fb, but I didn't know the connection. lol. Her family is WAY too big to keep straight. lol how'd you figure it out?