As a cast member, I received a lot of benefits.
Disney likes to boast about their perks when they recruit people for the college program and they really weren’t lying when they said they offered many of them. My roommates and I spent what free time we had in the parks. Admission was free and since Mickey Mouse’s paychecks left A LOT to be desired, we tried to spend as little as possible. I attended my first Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT where Rasheida finished not only her Margarita from Mexico, but mine as well. She skipped freely and sang out loudly as we made our way to the parking lot that night. We got dressed up for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I went as a girl from Slytherin House, letting some of my non-Disney interests show. (I wasn’t the only Harry Potter fan that night) and Jaclyn making the entire costume herself down to the authentic shoes, went as Tinkerbell. And I finally got to see the Osborne Family Festival of Lights to which they had begun hanging lights when I had arrived in August. Over that span of six months, I learned how to navigate those parks (excluding Animal Kingdom) with the same ease I felt walking through my neighborhood.
My favorite time was when I would pick up Fantasmic shifts for some extra cash. The work wasn’t hard since it was mostly just crowd control and handling strollers. At the end of the night, I would walk down Sunset Blvd towards the exit. The park had long since been closed and even though there was no one there, all the lights were still on. I took in those quiet moments and let them ease my tired and homesick body. I know I would never again have this opportunity and I ordered my mind to bask in the temporary peacefulness of it all. To this day, I still have dreams of those nights. I dream of flashing lights, the sound of my heavy footsteps and I wake up with a sense of regret that I didn’t stay and keep those moments for longer than I had.
Like I said, I was homesick. Looking back at my internship now, I realize a few things. One is that I fretted over a home, a place that when I returned, was exactly the same as it was when I left it. How silly of me to think that my mere absence would somehow cause it to disappear. My room didn’t change. My parents and friends were still there and lastly, Peter had not taken up with anyone else while I was gone. This brought me to my next realization: I was such a cliché. There I was, given such a golden opportunity and I let it slip through my fingers because of a boy. Peter did not find someone else because really, he had no time. If we weren’t texting, we were on the phone. If we weren’t on the phone, we were chatting online. We knew each other’s moves before we even made them and maybe my roommates saw that as love (although, I now have a sneaking suspicion that Rasheida knew better) but looking back now, I see this obsession with each other was most unhealthy.
Peter was threatened by the guys I hung out with despite my many reassurances that they were just friends. When a coworker was hosting a big Halloween party, I showed up three hours late because I had spent the time crying in the bathroom trying to explain to him that I needed to make friends. If I didn’t go to this party I would be left out of every conversation that Monday. All around me people were forging friendships and I merely sat by, watching and wondering if he would approve of this friend or that. Now I don’t entirely blame him. When he would ask me if I was going out in that tone that implied he much rather I stay in and talk to him, I could have said, “Yes, actually I AM going out,” but there were nights I left get-togethers early because I knew he wouldn’t want to be left waiting long. There were male friends I kept secret from him because I was afraid he would get upset. Again, I was too young or stupid to see that this indeed wasn’t love, but rather a high school relationship that was choking me. Nonetheless, I vowed to enjoy my last few weeks at Star Tours.
Two weeks before the end of my internship, I graduated. I received Mickey ears with a tassel and my “diploma” was a certificate of completion signed by Meg Crofton. It was a fun day because it felt like us CPs were finally getting some recognition for all of our hard work. Afterwards, we went to the parks and other cast members recognized our ears. Now we were on the receiving end of congratulatory remarks. Walking around EPCOT that day, I didn’t feel the relief I thought I was going to feel. It felt more like sadness. I spent weeks wishing for time to pick up and in that moment, I wanted it all to slow down. As Jiminy Cricket says in Wishes, “You know folks, you gotta be careful whatcha wish for around here or you’ll get yourself in an awful mess.”
“But just when things look bad, fate steps in to see you through.” I’m really glad I had this experience. I’m grateful for the fact that when I needed it most, this door opened to me because I don’t know what would have happened without it. I do regret how I mishandled it though, but like so many things in life, you can’t let the regret cloud your mind. It was an opportunity that offered both difficult and exhilarating moments and that’s more than I could have hoped for had I taken that random copy-writing internship.
Someday I’ll be able to take my kids to Disney and show them where mommy used to work. When they’re little, I imagine they will look at me in awe and maybe think that I’m a pretty cool mom. When they’re older, I’ll be able to explain the WHOLE story to them, not just the magical moments of it. Either way, I’m proud of the time I spent at MGM Studios. Now when I go back, I always remember to smile a little brighter at the cast members. I always say thank you and if time permits, I chat them up for a few minutes.
Because God knows, it’s hard working for the Mouse.