What I Learned in My 20th Year

I did it, I’ve made it to actual adulthood. It’s kind of strange. 21 feels like it’s the last significant birthday for a while. Don’t get me wrong, every year surviving and thriving is something to celebrate, but this year seems like the last one of major cultural significance. I have to get a new driver’s license, have more tests done when I go to the doctor, and am widely considered as a full-blown adult. It’s weird!

While I am excited to see what all year 21 has in store, it does have a lot to live up to compared to what happened in year 20. This past year, I fulfilled one of my life dreams by getting accepted to and completing the Disney College Program! What an immense joy that was. I think I’ve already talked enough on here about my Disney experience so I won’t go too far into it now, but it was honestly the best experience of my life thus far. I don’t think I’ll be able to ever stop talking about it completely. I grew in more ways than I can even fully put into words and I can’t imagine a better way to spend half of year 20.

While this year was filled with magic and pixie dust, there were so not so shining moments. I got really sick and diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) in December, witnessed loved ones battle cancer and other illnesses, had some battles with anxiety,  and am currently still trying to overcome the sadness and loneliness of leaving Disney World and readjusting to life back in Tennessee. 20 was a busy year. Filled with mountain top highs and valley lows, I know God was with me through it all, using everything to form and shape me. So, what exactly did I learn in my 20th trip around the sun?

If you put intentionality behind everything you do, even the small things become important and more enjoyable to do. This was something I learned in my job at FCC, but also while working at Animal Kingdom. Cleaning strollers and making a weekly bulletin with events for people to read may seem like tedious, insignificant tasks when you can’t see the bigger picture, but when you have a parent so relieved to have a stroller  to help get their children around a park and see the excitement on their faces at the end of the night as they jump up and exclaim “BEST DAY EVER,” it makes it all worth it. Every piece of the puzzle is important no matter how small, and when you remember that it acts as a huge motivator.

You have to be honest and open about your pain to overcome it. I mean this in both the mental and physical aspects. It’s no secret that when I’m sick or hurting I can be a big baby. My defense mechanism to fight against that is to sleep through it or pretend like nothings wrong when you have obligations to fulfill. That’s not the healthy response. I did it when I was sick in December and I do it anytime I’m faced with grief. I internalize things and keep them their as long as humanly possible until a breaking point is reached. Trust me, you will reach a breaking point and it won’t be fun. Regardless of what your brain may tell you, people won’t view you as weak or unreliable if you’re open about the ways your hurting. One of the bravest things a person can do is be completely honest about their pain. This is something I’m still working on and will likely take a lot of time, but at least I’m trying.

Don’t be afraid to dream big for yourself. With hard work and passion, they can come true. A lesson from Walt Disney himself that I’ve heard for years but never truly took to heart. Doing the Disney College Program was a big dream for me. One I’ve had since I found out about it when I was 16. It was also something I thought I’d never actually achieve. I applied with the sense of “I’ll just apply and see what happens,” expecting to not get accepted. When my application went from under review to the next step in the approval process, that’s when I knew I had a chance if I worked hard for it. So, that’s what I did. I prepped for my phone interview, watched tip videos, practiced some potential questions, wrote down a notes sheet of what I wanted to say, and prayed  A LOT. Low and behold, my dream came true and I got to make magic in merchandise at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If I had let the doubts in my head that said this dream was “too big” I would have missed out on the best and most transformative experience. Now, I know that I can keep dreaming big. See you after graduation, Disney! I’m dreaming to be back.

We all need to be nicer to our planet. I’ve been environmentally cautious for a while now, but after working for Animal Kingdom and seeing all of the conservation efforts they set forth, I’ve got a bigger passion for taking care of our environment. Things like not using plastic bags and straws or recycling are easy changes that we can all and SHOULD make in our daily lives. It can be hard to break our habits at first, but once you do it will be better for you and the future of our planet. Even look up brands to see if the things you’re buying are being sourced and packaged ethically before purchasing. It can be a quick search while you’re in the store to find more eco-friendly brands. Be nice to the earth, oceans, and all its human, animal, plant inhabitants.

Always re-apply sunscreen when you’re spending the day at a waterpark. Yeah, learned this one the hard way. You’d think after being casper white for 20 years that I’d know by now how to properly use sunscreen. Apparently not! I am proud that my whole time in Orlando I only got one bad sunburn. But, that one sunburn was enough. Sorry back and shoulders!

Finding what re-energizes you is key. This was something that was mentioned in a class I took while working at Disney. They told us to find what re-energizes us and use that to make it through the tough and exhausting shifts. For me, it’s talking to friends. When I see the people I love and care about, my energy soars. If I’m having a bad moment or dealing with something frustrating then I turn to a friend and either vent or talk about something else to take my mind off it. Works like a charm. Some other things that also help are soaking in some sunshine, candy, animals, a quick rollercoaster ride, and dancing.

While there was a lot that I learned in my 20th year of life, these were definitely some of my highlights. 20 was a whirlwind year that was better than I could have ever expected. It was filled with more joy then I knew could be possible and made me truly start to believe in myself and my own abilities that God has gifted me with. To those who I met this year, thank you for being a part of 20. I am so glad I know you.

Here’s to everything year 21 will hold! I cannot wait to see what’s in store, who I’ll meet, and what I’ll do. All I know for sure is, with God, big things are in store!

❤ / Bailey

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