All over the news, I see it: one year ago, an earthquake struck Mineral, VA. It was definitely a weird event (even weirder, that I look back in my archives and see that I did not write a blog post about it) but August 23 is a date that will always stick in my memory for a different (and much more magical) event that happened six years ago.
Hard to believe, but yes, August 23, 2006 – just three months after I earned my degree from Washington State University, I had embarked upon yet another big adventure: moving across the U.S. to sunny Orlando to participate in the Walt Disney World College Program.
I was super excited, and even better, I was not alone: among the many participants in the program, I was lucky enough to be roommates with a group of friends I had met via a livejournal community for the Fall 2006 program.
We were the Ohaninjas – super cool friends that became a family (hence the name) that came from all corners of the country – Joe from NY, Brittanie from AR, Kelly from MA, Lindsay from IL, and Lauren from PA. Honorable Ohaninjas also included Johanna and Courtney – J had started the Fall Advantage program, and therefore was already in Orlando, and C had ended up not being able to join us on our adventure.
Brittanie, Kelly, Lauren and I shared an apartment at Chatham Square – right near the clubhouse, and within earshot of the shuttles that would take us between the parks, Downtown Disney and our complex, all through the day and night. We did our best to spiffy up our temporary digs with numerous shopping adventures to Target, as well as random Disney purchases (of course).
My first job at Walt Disney World was anything but glamorous. On paper, it sounded nice enough: Merchandise – Magic Kingdom, Main Street Entrance Complex. In my naive mind, I thought that might mean a chance at working at the whirlwind Emporium, or maybe the confectionery across the street…nope. Main Street Entrance meant just that…entrance…and that meant the trifecta of strollers, lockers and wheelchairs.
Yes, we wore the lovely stripes and were at your beck and call to rent out your double stroller for your big day at the MK, or store your belongings in teeny lockers with funky keys – not to mention assist with the crazy drama associated with the ECVs (Electronic Convenience Vehicles). Still, I loved it. The days were packed and the people – coworkers and guests alike – ensured that there was never a dull moment.
Moments not working at a Disney park pretty much meant moments spent playing at a Disney park. I definitely got great use of my Cast Member ID (free park admission) and for me, it never got old. Working and living at Walt Disney World really was a dream come true.
As that glorious semester came to an end however, it did feel like we were crashing back into ‘real life’ – those four months went by way too fast! Each of us went our separate ways…some continuing on with the mouse, and some in other directions with their lives.
I personally extended into Spring – and therefore had to move apartments, and chose to try a new direction on the program – attractions. This sent me to the far reaches of the Magic Kingdom – Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Swiss Family Treehouse (ATT). At first, I was annoyed – I mean, c’mon, why not Pirates of the Caribbean or the Jungle Cruise? Those jobs seemed a lot more fun! But – as things often do, everything worked out for the best because I made some really awesome friends at ATT!
Looking back, I can remember some of the negative points, or the stressful moments I had – but in the grand of scheme of things, it really was magical. I will always look back on those special times spent working at Walt Disney World with a smile – and though I do miss it dearly, it does make it even more pixie-dusted when I visit now, because I know how hard each Cast Member works to make the guest experience the best ever.
Without completely rehashing my Disney page, I just wanted to commemorate today as a special thing to celebrate – friendship, learning and life. Those four years changed my life forever and it all started that magical day – August 23.
What’s your dream job? Are you in it now?