GOING BACK TO DISNEY FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MY COLLEGE PROGRAM

Surprise, I went back to Disney World! I was just as shocked as you probably are. It’s been six months since I left and came back to Tennessee to finish. To be honest, I didn’t think this trip was going to happen. With everything going on at school I didn’t think I could. Thankfully, I was able to take a long weekend to visit the most magical place on earth for a much-needed break!

I’m not gonna lie, it was weird being back. In a lot of ways, it felt like I should still be working there. It was like I never left. Truthfully, a lot has changed since my college program ended. My first day was spent back in my home park – Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This day was special because I got to see so many friends that I’d been missing. The fun part was, most of them had no clue I was coming! It was so fun to surprise them and see their reaction (really glad they hadn’t forgotten about me, that would have been awkward). We walked around seeing as many people as possible at main entrance, watched the stunning Merry Menagerie, saw all the Christmas decorations, at Satou’li Canteen, rode the safari, and spent a chilly day re-connecting. It was definitely weird being there as just a guest and not someone who was on their day off. Whenever I heard someone ask a question, my instinct was to respond or say “happy birthday, princess” to little girls with birthday buttons on. Some things will always be engrained in me!

Besides feeling weird like I should be working, the first day was so good being able to see all of my old co-workers and friends again. I’ve missed seeing them every day! Even though a lot of people aren’t there anymore, I am really glad I got to see everyone who was. The only one who knew I was coming was my DCP twin, Emily, so it was also really fun surprising them. Plus, I got to see Chip and Dale in their dinosaur outfits with CHRISTMAS TOUCHES! How cute?!

The second day was a long one! We started off by hitting Epcot for some Food and Wine Festival goodies. I got the tropical mimosa, Twinnings pumpkin spice chai tea cocktail with caramel vodka, bacon and cheddar soup, and a teriyaki chicken bowl. Everything was DIVINE and it was fun being “of age” in Epcot and getting to experience more of the festival than I have in previous years. We also were very lucky to be able to visit my close friend, Chris, who we’d seen the day before but I was so glad I got to see again!

After a lap around the world, we decided to take a ride on the Skyliner. Luckily, another one of my dear friends from the program was working it so I got to squeeze in a hug before jumping in the gondola. This was the first time I got to go on Skyliner and I was super impressed! What a cool way to travel from park-to-park or resorts. When we got off at the next resort, we made a last-minute decision to jump on and head to Hollywood Studios! We had time to kill before we could go into the Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and I had yet to see Batuu. So, off we went!

We got there, nabbed some FastPasses for Tower of Terror, and headed straight to Batuu. I’m no Star Wars fan, but it was super cool to see! Another one of Disney’s immersive lands done right. We even got to see Chewbacca and some Storm Troopers just walking around doing their thing! From there, we looked at all the Christmas decorations and took a walk through Toy Story Land. We headed to Sunset Blvd. for my first ever ride on Tower of Terror. Since I have a rather intense fear of elevators, this ride seemed like a nightmare! But, as a big fan of The Twilight Zone I decided I needed to finally take a ride. The theming was amazing!! I wasn’t a huge fan of the feeling of my brain hitting my skull with each drop, but it was fun. I don’t know if I’ll ride it again, but maybe if I take some ibuprofen ahead of time it’ll be better! It didn’t cure my fear of elevators though.

After that, it was time for the big event! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. Most people who know me know that I LOVE Christmas. Yet I had never been to Disney World at Christmas time! This party shattered any expectations I had! It was AMAZING. From the minute walking in and seeing the Christmas tree on Main St. I was in awe. There were lights, decorations, and Christmas music at every turn! Not to mention, free cookies and hot chocolate! I dawned my Christmas ears and wreath earrings and was truly living my best life! How could I not be?

We started off with a ride on Small World (much to my dismay), then hit up a couple of cookie locations. We got to meet the seven dwarves, the hundred-acre woods friends in their adorable Christmas outfits, and it wouldn’t have been a Christmas party in Disney without stopping by and seeing the old boss! Took the wildest ride in the wilderness with no wait, ate lots of cookies, took lots of pictures, and by the end of it we were dragging ourselves to the bus to go home. It was a long one, but one of the best days!

13 consecutive hours, 3 parks, and 27,733 steps later we were filled with Christmas joy but also dead to the world. Not to mention, the next day we’d be taking that 12-hour drive back home! It was 1000% worth it and a trip that my soul needed. I needed a break from school craziness and work, and was ready to visit my second home! I really leaned into my enneagram 7-ness and took a trip on a whim that was the best. Reminds me I don’t have to make sure every moment is planned out!

Other than being over the moon about seeing friends and visiting the parks, the trip also reminded me how much I’d love to make my career at Disney. As I’ve been trying to figure out where I want to be post-grad in May and weighing my options, I’m leaning in and listening to where I need to be. Working for Disney and being able to make advertising magic would be a dream! More and more it seems like I’m being pointed that way. Wherever I do end up, whether it’s back at Disney or not, I will always make sure to keep the magic alive and spread joy in every circumstance.

All in all, it was a festive, magical trip! I’ve been back in school reality for one week and I’m already itching to go back. We’ll see how long that lasts! Maybe next time I’ll be returning as a cast member.

MERRY CHRISTMAS (it’s never too early to have festive spirit)

❤ / Bailey

How to deal with post-Disney depression.

If you haven’t heard, there is a widely known phenomenon know as post-Disney (or in my case, post-DCP) depression. It’s that horrible feeling that smacks you in the emotions when you leave the magical Disney bubble and head back to reality. It sucks when you leave vacation, but imagine having to leave all that behind when you’ve spent months there making a home, friends, and magic of your own. Yeah, it’s rough.

Trust me, I know that there is MUCH worse going on in the world. There are people battling cancer, living in poverty, being separated from their families due to injustice, and so much more. I’m aware of this and that’s why I feel so bad for being such a debby downer lately. It’s the type seven within me beating myself up for feeling such negative emotions. Regardless, I think it’s healthy for me to acknowledge the fact that I’m not happy.

It hits me somewhat randomly now. That overarching feeling of loneliness. I left a place where I had so many accessible and readily available friends to do things with, and if they were busy I could easily make some new ones. Back to small town Tennessee where most of my friends have left, have things going on to keep them busy, or are always on the go traveling. By no means am I blaming any of this on them, just stating the fact that they aren’t around as much.

I also had more things to do. There is always something going on in Orlando from going to Disney parks, visiting a different theme park, driving 2 hours to the beach, going to a huge mall, or just exploring cute towns like Celebration. Not that Johnson City is an empty wasteland with nothing to do, but it’s definitely no Disney World. Now when I’m bored, I got to Target or Founder’s Park. They’re nice things to do, but I miss being able to go ride roller coasters, meet characters, or just take in the visuals that are Disney World. Which I’m aware, that was a very priviliged lifestyle, but one I also worked really hard for.

I don’t know that I’ll be fully able to feel the joy I had during my Disney College Program. It does get better over time. I can finally look back at all my pictures without physically crying (just on the inside now). I don’t think I’ll be able to listen to the Animal Kingdom park arrival music that I found on Spotify for a little while longer, but I’m making progress.

I’m holding onto hope that school starting back will help me feel better. I’ll have more friends around, more to do with homework and joining clubs, and overall more regulairty. I also get to start thinking about the future more as I plan for graduation. Thinking about it has me really excited about what comes next. Maybe a return to working for Disney will be in the cards.

Even if I don’t end up working for Disney again, Walt Disney World will always be a place I call home. So many happy memories were made there and I cannot wait to go back to Orlando. I don’t know when my bext visit may be, but I know I will love every second of it.

So, what are some ways to help cope with post-Disney depression?

Video chats and phone calls are key. Yeah, I’m walking the old fashioned stuff. When all of your friends are dispersed across the country video chats and phone calls can make a world of difference. Texting is nice and a good way to more constantly stay in touch, but there’s nothing quite like seeing someone’s face or hearing their laugh.

Don’t watch Disney videos for a while. This may not be for everyone, but whenever I first came back it was really hard for me to look at content from the parks. Especially my home park! It’s weird seeing it on screen when you aren’t there in person anymore. You’ll work your way back to being able to watch them. As my sister told me, “maybe don’t consume the media that makes you sad.”

Get your pictures printed. I know you took a TON of pictures while you were at Disney. Instead of just letting them sit on your phone, go get them printed. Plaster them along your walls, desk spaces, planner, notebooks, etc. to bring a sense of Disney wherever you go.

Remember how lucky you were to be there. Disney is a magical experience, and one not everyone gets to take part in during their lifetime. To go to Disney, especially to be chose to participate in the Disney College Program, is a huge honor. Don’t take that lighlty and count your lucky stars. Be thankful for the time you had.

Start planning those reunions. This will give you something to look forward. My DCP twin is coming to visit me in my hometown and I know I want to plan several more visits with the amazing people I met during my time at Disney. Also, plan those trips to return to the parks.

Stay busy. If your busy there’s no time to be sad, right? Okay that might not be the healthiest way to desribe. Being busy definitely helps though because it gives you less time to dwell on the past.

Hopefully some of these can help any others who are also experiencing post-Disney or post-DCP depression. It sucks, I know, but we’ll get through it. Walt wouldn’t want us being sad when there’s a great, big beautiful tomorrow to look forward to.

❤ / Bailey