Do y’all ever look back on a time in your life, where you felt like that was the closest you’ve felt to yourself? You were exactly where you not only were meant to be, but you were happy, feeling your best, enjoying life to it’s fullest?
For me that was when I moved to Orlando, FL just after college for an internship at Disney World.
You know how we all have that one relationship, where when looking back, we just hang our head, because there are just no words? I was in that at the time, nearing the end of college, having no idea what my next step was going to be. We were “engaged” (yes, parenthesis are beyond appropriate) and I was looking not only for what I was going to do next, but also a way out.
I randomly heard that recruiters for the Walt Disney Co. were going to be at my school, and they had a photography internship available they were going to be talking about. Out of curiosity I walked my happy ass there to hear what they had to say. I had a few free hours so why not?
They sold me. So I applied, went through a couple phone interviews, then come graduation I said PEACE! Off to Florida I went!
I was nervous, but excited. I knew not a soul, would be hundreds of miles from family and friends, but it was exactly what I needed.
I shared an apartment with 3 other girls, in a complex full of other Disney Interns for 7 months.
During that time I almost died from heat stroke (ok, slight exaggeration, but taking a Midwest native and planting her outside for 8 hours in the Central Florida June sun? Holy Hell. It was a brutal adjustment.), learned how to country line dance, explored on my own, wore a bikini for the first time in my life, made some great friends, learned what I was and wasn’t made of, and met my future husband.
Some of my favorite memories from that time are both social and professional. Care to take a momentary trip with me?
At the time, Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney was still a thing. There were dance “clubs” and free cast-member nights. Some of my friends went weekly, and I’d tag along at times. Pleasure Island no longer exists, and Downtown Disney is now Disney Springs, and I’m so glad I was able to experience it as it had been.
The internship I had was for a new department at Disney World, and being at the *almost* beginning was such a great learning experience. I had the opportunity to be on multiple opening teams, watching how a business changes as it grows and transitions, learning what worked and what didn’t. One of my biggest takeaways was Customer Service. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of jobs I’ve had, but the training I got was invaluable, and changed how I view the customer relationship. It’s because of the training I had and my time with Disney that I love providing great customer service!
Thursday and Saturday nights at Cowboys, “Orlando’s best Country Nightclub.” Oh-ma-lord, the times had there! My roommate first introduced me, as I’d never been line dancing or to a Country bar before, and I’m SO glad she did! The dancing blew me away. I had been expecting boring old people dancing to lame country music, but not only was it full of people my age, they danced to both country AND hip hop at times! Then there were the contest nights, where they had the girls in bikinis, and the guys in boxers. Those were fun nights, haha!
Of course, there were the trips to the beach. Both Cocoa Beach and Clearwater Beach were roughly the same distance from where I lived, so I’d go to both. Clearwater Beach though, on the Gulf side, was much more enjoyable to me. I remember one time heading there with friends, I’m not sure why but we ended up in Ybor City driving around. On this one street there were a lot of busted looking homes real close together, and all of a sudden we come upon a house with a bunch of chickens! I was shocked as shit, as that was definitely not something I would have expected.
Then there were the nights when I didn’t feel like going out, but I didn’t want to just sit around in my room. I’d head upstairs to the neighbor guys’ place. They were my go-to for a fun chill night.
Orlando is best known for Disney, but one of my most favorite places ever is in the often overlooked downtown Orlando: Lake Eola. I spent more evenings than I can count walking around that lake. Watching the colors change on the fountain, the ducks and swans swimming with their babies. As the evening turned darker and darker, jumping as the huge outlines of Palmetto Bugs dashed across the pavement at my feet. They always made me jump like a damn girl!
Of course, meeting Oscar, who would become my husband, takes the cake! The days spent working with him and others in that area of the park were SO much fun, it almost didn’t feel like work at times.
I write all this because I’m finding that past experiences tend to get lost these days in my mind. I’m fairly focused on the present and the future, and while it’s not a good thing to get stuck in the past, I find I really enjoy letting my mind wander to the past. It gives me a chance to relive fun events, experience some of the feelings again that I’d had, reflect on what I did successfully, what I didn’t do so well, and helps influence how I move forward. Sometimes I find there are things I’ve done that are still weighing on me that I need to rectify. Sometimes I’m reminded of an activity that made me feel alive.
Many times it reminds me of how quickly time is passing, and how important it is to enjoy the present.
Every time it reminds me of people who will always leave an imprint on my heart, who I could never forget, and were such an important part of my life.