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

A thank you to the people | DCP Spring 2019

One thing I regret about the end of my program is that I didn’t fully get to say thank you to the people that were a huge part of my life over the last few months. It was the people in my life that made my program so special and one that I will never forget. I made some amazing friends and I wanted to take a moment to really thank them for all they have done. Goodbyes are hard, but this is just a “see ya real soon” because know that you met me y’all are stuck with me!

My Coordinators: Paul, Hunter, John, Evelyn, David, Angel, Pedro, & Joan – it was an honor to get to work with such an amazing team. I honestly couldn’t be more thankful for the influence you all have had on my life in the four months I got to know you. You all gave me the tools I needed to do my job well and put trust in me that has made me grow immensely as a person. You all were always there to answer any questions I had and help me in any way that I needed. You all rock! Keep being superstars. Anyone who gets to have any one of you as a coordinator should consider themselves very lucky; I know I do!

My Leaders: Carmela, Chris, Ashley, William, Al, and Lori – thank you for being amazing leaders. You were all amazing to work for and I’m so thankful to get the opportunity to know each of you! You made work a fun place while also making sure we were doing our best. Thank you for being great leaders. I am so thankful I got to work with you all on my CP.

DAK Stroller Squad: I’m not gonna lie when I found out I’d be working strollers I was a little apprehensive. Now, I wouldn’t have wanted to work anywhere else! The DAK stroller squad is the best group of people. My fellow CPs were just a fantastic group of people who I got to work with every day and all the full-time, part-time, and seasonal people were great to get to know. Y’all made coming to work each day a joy! There was never a time when I dreaded coming to work because even on my bad days I knew I had y’all to lean on & cheer me up. You answered my many stupid questions when I was new & clueless, and I can never thank you enough for the ways you all have shaped my life. All my love to all of you!

Emily: Thank you for being my DCP twin. Who knew I had a twin from all the way across the globe in Australia that I would be paired with for day one of on-the-job training? I am so thankful that I got to meet you during this program. Thanks for all the amazing adventures, from driving to work in a thunderstorm to going to the parks before work or going to Legoland, it was all a blast! Saying goodbye to you was one of the hardest goodbyes, but I’m thankful I got to spend my last day of the program with you soaking in every moment of it. I can’t wait to come back and visit you & remind you to PUT DOWN YOUR ARMBARS.

Jade: One of the first friends I made on the program! I’m thankful we met on day one of training, had merchandise core together, and became amazing friends. You were one of the only people who could always tell when I was upset or frustrated and knew when I needed a hug, to take a break, or have a vent session. We had a lot of great adventures from celebrating your birthday in Epcot & Disney Springs to quite the entertaining day at Legoland and everything in between. Thank you for being my friend & come visit Tennessee soon so I can show you real country food!

Maddy: Also one of my first friends that I met at DAKlimation! You bring SO much laughter wherever you go. I knew I could count on you if I ever needed a laugh or hug. Your positive spirit radiates wherever you go. I’m thankful we got to go horseback riding for the first time together at Disney!! There’s nobody else I’d rather consistently bump into at the parks on my days off. I’m glad you live in my neighbor state of North Carolina so a visit soon is a must!

Esco: I miss your hugs! Thank you for being the amazing human you are. You filled each day of work with so much happiness. Keep on being a bright light to this world. You are going to do so many amazing things!

Quinton: Who thought it was smart to keep putting us together? Nothing but laughter and love came from working with you. I’m thankful for all our times’ stacking, closing Outpost, and just working together. Thank you for ranting with me about the tough times and laughing about everything else. I’m so thankful to have gotten to know you. No matter where life takes us, I’m always here for ya!

Chris: Our friendship formed while an angry old man was yelling at me about change. You always made working in Garden Gate a blast! Every time I was assigned in there I was hoping you’d be there too. I’m so thankful for every hug, screaming my name when I walked by, and laugh shared. Keep being the best and taking awesome pictures!

My roommates: I am so thankful for the five girls from across the country that I got the privilege of living with. Y’all were amazing roommates & really helped make Orlando feel like home! Love you Madison, Ansley, Sam, Kendra, & Barbara! My door is always open to y’all wherever I may be.

Sam: The person I shared a room with & 1/3 of our Three Caballeros! Thank you for being the best first roommate I could have ever asked for. You filled so much of my life with laughter & love. I’m thankful for all the late night food runs, the times you mocked me, laughing at the stupid things we did, talking until 3 am, thinking I was staring at you when really I was sleeping, ranting about crazy days at work, and all the park visits. I miss seeing you all the time! Can’t wait for you to come to visit me & for me to come to Indiana.

Kendra: The other third of our Three Cabelleros & my precious daughter. Thank you for being an amazing friend & roommate. I’m so glad we had Traditions at the same time and got to experience our first visit to the parks as Cast Members together. We had a lot of fun adventures from going to the parks, getting our nails done (talk about a weird place to get engaged!), and going on food runs. Even though my judging may have made it seem otherwise, I am so glad to have you in my life! Reunion soon plz. I’ll make sure to come to you with any health concerns since you’re gonna be a rockin’ nurse!

And to ANYONE I came in contact with, thank you for being you. Each and every person I met along the way had a huge impact on my life. It really is the people that make Disney World so special.

See ya real soon (on Snapchat, Insta, Facebook, and hopefully a real visit), pals. Thanks for everything!

❤ / Bailey

See ya real soon, Disney World | DCP Spring 2019

How bittersweet. That’s all I keep seeing about the end of Disney College Program. It is SUCH a bittersweet feeling.

My last shift working at Animal Kingdom Park Arrival was on May 14th from 6:15 pm – 1 am. That night was filled with goodbyes, tears, and many hugs from people that mean more to me than I ever thought possible for only knowing them for four months. When it came time for me to eventually clock out for one last time I walked over to the computer and as soon as Mickey popped up with “Thank you for helping Make the Magic” I could feel the tears welling up. Me and three of my friends, two of which were also on their last day of work, decided to walk up and see the Tree of Life one last time. Since it was really late the park was pretty much empty and only a few other cast members were around. We stood watching the tree as it was still being lit up and cried. We took a few pictures and said “see ya real soon” to our home parks icon. We walked together to the parking lot, said our goodbyes, gave big hugs, and went our separate ways.

CUE THE SOBBING. I hate crying in front of people, so as soon as I got in my car where I was alone I let out the biggest sob I think I’ve ever cried in my entire life. I cried so hard I almost threw up. Yep, that hurt. The whole drive back to my apartment there were tears filling my eyes. Who knew that a place where I’d be stacking strollers and selling merchandise could mean so much to me? The past four months I’d fallen in love with working for Disney and the people I worked alongside and it hurt to say goodbye.

I pulled myself together the next day in order to head to Magic Kingdom for my last park visit. I went with my mom and sister and met up with my friends Jade, Emily, Aaron, Kendra and Sam throughout the day to spend as much time as possible with some of my favorite people (and take cute castle pics, of course). I ate some of my favorite Magic Kingdom foods, rode a few rides, watched Festival of Fantasy, and prepares myself for that final moment of watching Happily Ever After in front of the castle for my last time as a CP. Yep, more tears. I got to watch the fireworks at a stunning view of the castle with my mom, sister, Emily, and Sam. You could hear a chorus of sniffling and sobs from all the CP’s who’s journeys had come to an end that night as we cried together and reflected over the last few months. The night ended as I said goodbye to two of my closest friends, Jade and Emily, and took the last monorail ride to the TTC (which was also filled with tears, let me tell you).

I got home to my apartment and did a last minute packing dash to try to get everything ready to load up the next morning. My mom and sister met me at the complex, we loaded all my belongings into our two cars, and it was time to say goodbye to The Commons apartment 1311. It was a great place to live during my college program, filled with normal ups and downs, and it was said to see it empty. It really did become home and my roommates became family. I turned in my key and ID, said see ya later to my roommates, and drove out of The Commons for the last time. I then proceeded to curl up in a ball in our hotel room, cry, eat Chick-Fil-A, and then sleep. We got up in time to make our dinner reservations at Sana’a (AMAZING FOOD BTW) and headed to Disney Springs for one final shop.

The next morning, I got up and went to costuming to return everything then it was off to Tennessee. 13 hours later, and I pulled into a town that felt like home but weirdly unfamiliar. The transition has been rough, but that’s a separate post all in its own. As I have more time to reflect, I’ll touch more on how exactly this journey impacted my life. For now, I’ll just say…

See ya real soon, Orlando! You haven’t seen the last of me yet.

❤ / Bailey

I just graduated from the Disney College Program, what’s next?​

Whoa, what a journey. The Disney College Program has been the most life-changing experience over the last four months. I’ve spent every day working and playing in the Disney World parks, and it has been the most joyous time. I loved my job and the people I have been surround with. But, like all good things, it must come to an end. As much as I would love to stay here (and trust me, I REALLY would), I am at peace with my decision not to extend my program. I got my graduation ears yesterday and have five more shifts of work until my program is officially over.

So, what is next? I’ll be moving back to Johnson City, Tennessee. My mom and sister are meeting me here in Orlando to play in the parks for a few days beforehand and then help pack all my stuff up and begin the 10-hour drive home. I’ll have a few days to get settled in and catch up with friends and family before starting back my job with the Communications team at FCC. I’ll be working on a cool project that I am excited to dive into and looking forward to seeing my amazing coworkers there!

I’ll be back on East Tennessee State Univerity’s campus in the fall to start my SENIOR YEAR of college. I can’t believe my last year of undergrad is already here. I only have five classes and two big tests (a critical thinking skills test and a major field test) standing in the way between me and a bachelors of science in media and communication. It’s crazy! I technically could squeeze that all into one semester and graduated in December, but with being gone this semester and getting used to being back on campus, I’ve decided to stick with the full four years and graduate in May 2020.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey with Disney, and I can safely say that this isn’t the end. I will be looking into Professional Internships and other positions within Walt Disney World for post-graduation in the hopes of returning next year. This has been an amazing company to work for and one that I am nowhere near ready to say goodbye to just yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll even do another College Program! Whatever may come, I know doing this College Program will be a great door opener and I cannot wait to see what my future holds.

Goodbyes and really hard and this next week is going to be emotional, but I’m going to take advantage of every moment I have to make some magic!

❤ / Bailey

nine years later

Nine years ago today, life changed. I was coming home from school after meeting up with my mom who had been running our mother’s day plant sale. We hopped in the car and hurried home. We got there and dad was home too, which was off because he usually worked late. I began to run up the stair exclaiming, “I’m gonna go get ready for dance class!” When I was told to stop, come back, and sit on the couch. It was at that moment everything changed.

That was the day that I found out my uncle had passed away. It was unexpected. He had a simple foot surgery a few days prior and I had just talked to him on the phone the day of. He was supposed to be fine. Turns out, things can change in the blink of an eye.

My uncle was one of my favorite people. He was constantly showering my sister and me with so much love and joy. He really cared for us and would always remind us of how beautiful and loved we were. He was the person who could always cheer me up and make me smile. Even though he lived in Pennsylvania 11 hours away, he was someone I was super close with. The number of people who came to his funeral and spoke so highly of him was a true testament to the impact he had on this world. He was and still is, a major inspiration as to why I stay so positive and try to make people happy.

To this day, my uncle’s passing is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. Grief is a monster and one that in nine years still hasn’t gone away. I went through all the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Except I still think I might be stuck in that last one. Yes, I know my uncle is gone, but there is sometimes a part of me that still thinks he is just at home in Pennsylvania making people smile and laughing with friends. It’s just how my mind copes!

I think about him every day, and when I think about how much I miss him I can’t help but cry. I struggle with grief a lot. I tend to internalize things too much and suppress the sad emotions deep down inside. I’m a glass half full type of person, so much so to my own fault sometimes. However, on May 6th I will let myself grieve. I will tell myself it’s okay to cry about because there is pain from missing home. I won’t let it consume me, though. That’s not what he would want! He brought so much joy to me and everyone he knew, and I know he’d still want me to feel that joy even on this day.

Nine years later, and I still miss him. I’m sad that he missed out on numerous dance recitals, high school graduation, proms, dances, my sister’s graduation, and so much more. But, I know he would proud. He’s smiling down on me from heaven while I’m making magic at Disney and guiding me with light. I hope I am making him proud and honoring him in the way I try to spend joy.

❤ / Bailey

ONE MONTH LEFT | DCP SPRING 2019

Where has this year gone? I cannot believe that it’s already down to only one month left of my Disney College Program. I am excited to be seeing my family and friends that I have been missing back at home soon but am heartbroken at the thought of saying goodbye to this program and the people here. It has been the best time of my life and I have grown in ways I never could have imagined. So, what’s been going on since the last time I’ve posted?

I worked a lot. From the start, I’ve loved my job and that love has only grown as the program has progressed. I get to work alongside some of the most amazing people who provide my days with laughter, professional growth, encouragement, and immense joy. I’ve had some amazing guest experiences whether it be a little kid hugging me exclaiming it has been “the best day ever” to just having a chat with an older couple who are annual pass holders about the love for Disney and seeing the joy on someone’s face when they ready “East Tenn State Univ” on my nametag and are from that area or went to ETSU as well. Of course, there are rough moments but the good always outweighs the bad and I’ve grown in my ability to handle all types of situations.

I’ve had plenty of park days. When you have the unlimited ability to go to a Disney park, why wouldn’t you take full advantage of it? Most of my off days and several mornings before work have been spent exploring the parks and resorts. I rode Big Thunder Mountain for the first time (and now it’s one of my favorites) with my roommates Sam and Kendra, ate at the iconic Beaches and Cream with Maddy, ate a lot of festival food at Epcot’s Flower and Garden, and even built up the courage to enjoy some time by myself in the parks (well, besides the thousands of other strangers there).

I’ve had hilarious late night chats with my roommates. I honestly don’t think I could have gotten better people as my roommates for this experience. One of my favorite things to do is have late night chats with my roommates after we get home from work! We even had a late night waffle party that was full of laughs and delicious Mickey waffles.

With only one month left, I’m hoping to make every moment count. I want to play in the parks whenever I get the chance and make tons of memories with my friends here before we go our separate ways. I’m looking forward to celebrating Earth Day and Easter in the parks this weekend. In a few weeks, I’ll also be having some visitors and I cannot wait to share with them this place I love so much.

Here’s to the last month and everything that it will have in store!

❤ / Bail

MAKING DECISIONS | DCP 2 & 1/2 MONTH UPDATE

It’s no secret, I’m pretty bad at making decisions. I have been for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s deciding what to eat for lunch, what color to dye my hair next, or what to wear to class, you can bet I’ve had an in-depth thought process happen while trying to pick. I’m an overthinker, no doubt about it! This *special* trait of mine has been really apparent recently.

I’m currently two and a half months into my Disney College Program and loving every moment of it. So much so, that I applied to extend my program through the summer. Now, when I went into the program, I was pretty dead-set that I’d be coming back to Tennessee in May. Little did I know just how much I’d fall in love with this company, this city, and the people here. It’s truly felt like home and the amount of love and joy I feel every day is something I don’t think I can fully describe.

So, when the opportunity to apply to extend arose, I took it. I wrote a couple of paragraphs about why I wanted to stay through the summer, chose my role and location preferences, and a few weeks later I was offered an extension. Then, I had a decision to make.

QUE THE BIG YIKES AND MANY DAYS OF ASKING MYSELF  “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?”

There was something different about this decision. It was a really big one to make. I had a lot of reasons for staying in Florida. I love working at Disney World, I’ve made some INCREDIBLE friends here that I dread saying goodbye to, and l want to keep my journey with Disney going. However, there were also a lot of factors tugging me back home to Tennessee. A lot of my family members are going through a lot right now and I physically want to be there for them, the job that I loved back at home was being held for me until May, this is my last summer to be at home before GRADUATING college, and there are a lot of people and things I just miss about Johnson City.

Can you see why I was having such a tough time choosing? Plus, they only gave us about four days to give them an answer to whether or not we were accepting the extension. Talk about added pressure! After several days of constant inner debate, inner-lip biting (s/o to you, anxiety), praying, and a few tears shed thanks to it also coinciding with period week, I made my decision.

I declined the offer to extend my program and will be moving home to Johnson City in May.

It was a REALLY tough choice to make, but one that I’m at peace with. I want to be able to spend my last summer before entering the real adult world (post-graduation) at home in Johnson City and be close to my family who is going through a lot right now & could need me.

Don’t worry, I don’t think my journey in Orlando and with the Disney company is quite over yet! I’m already planning a trip to come back in June to celebrate my 21st birthday. I’m also planning on applying to Disney’s Professional Internships once I graduate next year and will definitely be looking into career paths in advertising and public relations with Disney.

I’m excited to see what the rest of my program will hold and will be soaking in every second of the experience! I’ve got some friends from home who are coming to visit in May, fun adventures to come planned with friends here, and many more days of working in the best park. The best is yet to come, I’m sure!

As far as what I’ve been up to recently, the last month since I’ve updated has been a blast! My sister, best friend, and their friends came to spend part of their Spring Break with me and I got to show them around my favorite place!! I got to go on a backstage tour of the Haunted Mansion ride with my coworkers. Spent a beautiful day Kathy & Wendy. Ate at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh & friends. I went to the parks a lot and worked A LOT. It’s been the best of times!

Here’s to learning to make decisions. I’ll see you in May, Johnson City!

❤ / Bailey