Sunday, 2 October 2011

How the Mouse Stole My Magic...

So I guess this is going to be one of those Heart-to-Heart blogs. Five years ago I found out that my favorite family holiday destination runs a summer program, where university students from around the world can go and work making dreams come true at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida. I waited those years until I had the university student status necessary to make me eligible to apply. This time last year, I was going through the initial interview stages, each time shaking with nerves as I felt that there was so much on the line. The most amazing summer of my life. A defining moment where I would realize that I was going to have to up and move to Florida once my degree was over to sprinkle pixie dust over thousands of tourists every day... About nine months ago I found out that my dreams had come true and I'd got the job. I spent the next few months preparing myself for the summer of a life time. Then a month and a half ago I cut my program short and came home a week-and-a-half early.

What changed? Well, firstly, you have to understand that this is a very personal thing for me... This is me acknowledging that I was wrong in thinking that life is as simple as just being on holiday and earning money while you're at it. I mean, for some people that may sound like a dream, but I'm different. I soon learnt that I simply cannot spend my life working in a mundane job just to live for the weekends; I need to be passionate about what I do... I need to be as excited about my work as I am about my days off. Unfortunately, the role I was given at Disney did not give me this, and so I basically decided I was wasting time and left!

I will never be able to explain it to anyone. People automatically assume I had a terrible time, or that I regret going. This is completely inaccurate. I had an amazing summer... the summer of a lifetime in fact! I wouldn't take it back for the world. I learnt so much about myself, and about how to work hard. And yet, madly enough all I kept thinking is, 'I wish I was at home applying for magazine work experience, starting on my third year reading list and writing blogs' all of which I would do all day every day for free, because I'm passionate about those activities. So I made the decision I'm proudest about so far. I left my friends behind, I quit my job and I came home to do the things I'd missed all summer. And I've never looked back.

People say to me, 'Why did you bother going? There are tons of people who will have wanted your place!' My response? 'Those people should have written a better application form, or done better in the interviews. I earned my place fair and square. As for why I bothered going? I'm young, I wanted to have fun, make dreams come true and earn money. I did all of those things, and once I'd finished, I came home.'

Sure I miss being able to go and catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks after a long day at work, or having the option to take a boat to work, or lying on the beach with the biggest food hangover from eating ice-cream until I literally wanted to vomit... But that can't go on forever, can it? What makes those things amazing is the novelty! If you could do it every day then it wouldn't be as exciting!

I must admit that in my personal experience I did not feel that The Disney Company helped me to feel stimulated or challenged or even supported. I was scheduled around 60 hours a week 6 days a week, which meant that I was often exhausted and hence unable to enjoy the 'perks' like going to the theme parks before or after shifts, or on my days off. One weekend was particularly hellish when I was scheduled a shift from 11am until 3am the next morning, and then was expected back in at 7am until 9pm. On top of that exhaustion was the fact that I had been assigned to an attraction in which I had absolutely no interest whatsoever... Uninterested workers make for unhappy workers which in my case joined with other negatives and resulted in my leaving early. Finally, another one of the main things which helped me to make my decision was their disinterest and lack of care for my well-being. I broke my pinky finger on the job, but was offered no compensation, was expected back in at work the first thing the next morning and given an increase in hours despite the fact that the painkillers I was taking induced epic amounts of drowsiness. Basically for the last three weeks I was a zombie.

At the end of the day everyone is different. I have friends who had almost as many hours as I did and yet they loved it, and wanted to extend their program. I worked with tons of people who work there all day every day and plan to do so for the rest of their lives. And they are happy. But not me.

My days off will stay with me forever. Especially those in my last week where I started to call in sick every day as I knew I was going home. Actually, I never knew my last shift would be my last as I had a day off and I was looking to change my flight home as I'd already decided that I didn't want to travel after the program as I'd initially planned. It turned out that if I flew home five days later I would only pay £30 to change... After talking to my parents about it (something which was very difficult for me as I didn't want to disappoint them, or for them to be worried, heightened only by the fact that the only real reason I had for the decisions was that 'I'm just not passionate about it!') I booked myself on that flight and started packing. In my last five days in Orlando I broke all the rules. I called in sick five days in a row, I went into the parks even though calling in usually means you can't, I returned my uniform in secret so that I wouldn't get sacked before quitting and basically got myself organized. Sounds like a lot of stress, and yet I also went to see Wishes, had a great time splashing about at Typhoon Lagoon and spent about $600 in the shopping mall with two of what have become my closest friends in the world.

You wouldn't be able to pay me enough to get me to go back and work as many hours as I was working in the place that I was working. I started to think, 'If you live your whole life for the weekend then only two sevenths of the rest of my life will be fun.' That kind of terrified me a bit, so I came home and I'm so glad I did.

Don't get me wrong, I will definitely holiday at Walt Disney World again. But I will never make the mistake of being sold on a job just because of the perks ever again. The job has to be a perk in itself. I soon realized that I would blog every hour God sends about beauty and fashion and lifestyle, and so I know that a career in written media is what I want to pursue, especially in terms of beauty journalism.

I have to be in a job that brightens my sparkle rather that takes it away! Who knew that a mouse would steal my magic eh? Haha. At least it's back now and I can scribble it all over my blog :)

Anyways, thanks for reading and letting me confide in you. If I could give you some advice, I'd say Make Sure You Follow Your Passion... you'll never have a dull moment!




  1. This is a really inspiring story. I think you're really brave to accept that it wasn't for you and to make that choice! I went there for two weeks last year and I found just being a tourist in the parks quite stressful - I can't imagine working there for days on end! I think it's really exciting too that it enabled you to figure out what you want to do with your life! :) xxx

    1. Thank you baby! It was a big decision to make, especially because if you quit with Disney they allegedly never EVER take you back even into their smaller companies. But I just realized that it totally wasn't for me. Made the decision to leave and was home about a week later. Simples! Haha, I've never yet regretted the decision although my parents thought I would, so I guess I did the right thing. Thanks for the support baby :)