This is a free topic essay that I wrote for my senior AP English Literature class. If you have time, I really think that - at least parts of it - are worth reading....
Off to Neverland
“Disney” and “name deleted for confidentiality reasons” have grown to become synonymous over the years with those who know me best. From my Tinker Bell cellphone to my Cinderella chapstick, to my Disney-themed room, some might say that everything I do relates to Disney in one way or another. And those people are definitely right. My obsessive love affair with Disney has being going on for quite some time now. And it all started with Disneyland – a land of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy……
Is it possible to love a place in the same way that you could love a person? Can you really care so deeply for an area filled with inanimate objects? I believe the answer to both of these questions is yes. I have found this place – and my place is Disneyland. That’s right, the one and only California original; home to everyone’s favorite rodent. I go to other Disney parks and have fun, but nothing can harness the imagination and tradition that reigns free in Disneyland. This 60-acre Magic Kingdom in Anaheim contains so much more than rides and restaurants. This former orange grove holds something that can hardly be expressed words, other than those that live in my heart. Disneyland has a spirit…it breathes, it has a pulse, a heartbeat.
I remember my very first trip to Disneyland. It was July 1998 – hot, steamy, crowded. Needless to say, I hated it. Ironic that Disneyland and I started off on such rocky road. However, I suppose that even the best relationships can start off this way. Let’s fast forward a bit to July 2001, which I consider to be my first “real” trip to the land of magical mice; the trip that “started it all.” Back in those days, I was still what some would call a Disneyland “newbie.” I didn’t have the path to every food cart memorized, I didn’t know all the attraction spiels by heart, and, if asked, I couldn’t spit out that Disneyland opened on Sunday, July 17, 1955 to 28,000 mostly uninvited guests and that there was a live television broadcast covering the entire event on ABC….as I clearly can state now. Today I have an annual passport to Disneyland, a membership in the Disney Vacation Club, and I cruise the parks like an old pro, able to navigate Disneyland with my eyes closed.
After this first trip, I thirsted for more and more Disney knowledge – not just about the parks, but the movies, music, books, merchandise, and everything and anything else Disney that you might think of. I devoured books on Walt Disney, watched vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons, and revisited the classic animated movies that I had loved so fondly as a child. I wanted to know who animated Snow White, what Donald Duck’s middle name was, and how many bricks it took to build Cinderella Castle. At a time when most people were just growing out of their Disney phase, mine was just beginning, which isn’t an easy thing to admit at a time when peer pressure and fitting in with the popular culture of MTV and MySpace remain supreme. Keeping up with the Walt Disney Company – both past and present – became my life’s work; almost a job, but one where you wake up every morning excited and thirsting for new knowledge.
When my obsession with Disney started, I was in 6th grade; now I’m a senior soon to graduate. A couple of years ago I made the decision that I wanted to pursue a career with the Walt Disney Company. I used to want to be an Imagineer, which is a uniquely Disney word combining “imagination” and “engineering.” However, now that I’m older, supposedly a little wiser, and more aware of my drawing and drafting skills…or rather, skill lack there of. I have opted for business position within the company. It is not that I have settled for a lesser position, but merely altered my dreams to be more within reach. With anticipation, I await attending college and, hopefully, participating in the Walt Disney World College Program. Obtaining a professional business internship would be the true beginning achieving my dream.
People like to tell me that my dreams won’t come true, that that one day I will somehow “outgrow” Disney. They say that Disney is a phase, I reply that Disney is a state of mind. Once you enter a certain state of mind, there is no turning back. I tell these people that everyone has a passion, and Disney is mine. It doesn’t matter what your passion is – as long as you have something that fires you up and provides the sparkle in your eyes. True, sometimes my dream seems a little out of reach. It is times like these when I turn to Walt Disney, almost a mentor of mine, and his famous words “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It is then that I continue to dream big and remember that you have nothing in life without dreams. Of course, dreams can disappoint you, but having no dreams is the most disappointing thing of all. I shoot for the moon, knowing that, if I fail, I might just land with Tinker Bell amidst the stars.
Clearly, I feel more strongly about Disney than almost anything else in the world. Lately, I have begun to wonder what it is that makes Disney so special that I would devote my life to it? The last time I wandered down Main Street U.S.A. in this land of Disney, I pondered over this. While walking along the Rivers of America at nighttime, seeing fireworks light up the night sky, and watching Tinker Bell glide over the castle, it hit me – it’s cliché, but, true enough, Disney means magic. Plain and simple, Disney allows to you escape into a world all its own. Immersed in a world of fairy tales and pixie dust, I do not worry about passing AP tests, mending rifts in relationships, or leaving behind the world I know to leave for college. I always say that I’m a realist – constantly planning and worrying about the future, never wanting things sugar-coated – which is all the more reason that fantasyland is my favorite place of all. Escaping to a world of imagination, whimsy, and wonder is what allows me to maintain a level of sanity in the high stress reality that I have created for myself. I never reach my breaking point because, at the end of a long, hard day, Mickey and his friends are always there for me. I can close my eyes and, for at least a few seconds, sail off to Neverland with Peter Pan and Wendy.
Peter Pan has been holding a special place in my heart lately. It’s ironic because, when I was two years old, Peter Pan was my favorite movie and I watched at least twice a day. My relationship to this movie somehow represents the circle of life and has taken on a whole new meaning for me. When I was younger, I watched Peter Pan and Wendy believing that living in Neverland would be the ideal. I still would like to sail on Peter Pan’s pirate ship, however, as torn as I am over having to face the real world, I know that remaining a little girl would not allow me to fulfill any of my dreams. I suppose that, in the end, the moral of Disney movies is the lesson of life that must be learned: eventually, everyone must grow up. Visiting Neverland would be nice, but living there would be less than ideal. I can sail on a magic carpet ride with Aladdin and Jasmine, but I must return home afterwards. Swimming under the sea with Ariel is fine, but I cannot stay forever in King Triton’s castle.
Disney isn’t about escaping reality, but merely learning how to deal with reality better by mixing in just the right amount of fantasy. There are so many less than ideal events happening in life. Sometimes it seems like the world is ending. Disney makes me feel like life is just beginning. It’s a reassurance that amidst all the negative, something remains wholesome and pure. As long as there is Disney, all of the innocence in the world has not been lost. And the innocence will never be lost as long as people continue to follow the ideas of Walt Disney and believe in magic and the power of faith, trust, and pixie dust.
Another part of facing reality is learning to accept the criticisms that others have against you. Now, I can proudly stand up and say, “My name is (deleted for confidentiality reasons) and I’m obsessed with Disney.” I don my ipod filled with Disney songs and my Mickey Mouse purse in front of everyone. I admit to being a Disney “loyalist,” who would never set foot inside of a Universal or Sea World theme park. Some people – a lot of people – may call me crazy, but if you are passionate about something, there is no reason to hide it just because it’s not what’s popular. The townspeople thought Jasmine from Aladdin was odd for wanting to leave behind a life of luxury behind the palace walls. Belle from Beauty and the Beast was different from all of the other villagers. However, she didn’t stop reading or dreaming of something more. She let everyone form their own opinions about her, knowing that the only thing that mattered is what she thought of herself. Those people who used to tease me for loving the House of Mouse so much might just be jealous because they have already lost the childhood magic and wonder that Disney represents from their own lives.
Disney represents something so much more than vacations or a hobby – Disney represents life. Life is about learning to live, laugh, and love. Animated films are full of real characters with raw emotion. Magical songs sung by Jamaican crabs have taught me how to live. Dim-witted villains have taught me how to laugh. Princesses dancing with their princes have taught me how to love. Disney only has one lesson left to teach me – how to lose. Soon, I will have to say goodbye to the only person that I have ever loved. The day after, I will be going to Walt Disney World, which is surely the best medicine for a broken heart. I temporarily must escape to my fantasy world, seeking for ways to deal with the problems of my reality. Losing someone doesn’t mean that you can’t have a “happy ending,” it just means that you have a different ending. Pocahontas loved John Smith and, because she did, they were forced to say goodbye. I will linger in one last embrace before saying goodbye, then keep my eye on him as he drives away until I can see no more, just as Pocahontas watched John sail way on his ship to England. However, just as the winds blowing around Pocahontas signaled change for her, they will also signal change for me. The ending of a chapter means the turn of a page and the beginning of a new one.
What I’m really trying to say, is that Disney can’t be represented by a place, a song, or a movie – Disney is a state of mind. It’s a figurative world that is left open for every individual to interpret in their own way. You can’t live like the characters, but you can learn from them – something which has taken me a while to realize. Even the Disney family of characters has their fair share of problems. So many of the princesses are waiting around for princes that might never come, and restrained from venturing into new worlds and uncharted territory. I cry every time I see Aladdin take Jasmine on a magic carpet ride, or when the Beast comes to life again in Belle’s arms, or when Simba regains his place on Pride Rock, but this doesn’t mean that I want to live my life in the way that these characters have. That being said, I will never stop loving Disney or visiting Disneyland. There is nothing wrong with escaping into fantasy, as long as you eventually come back into reality. You can ride Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland, but, after 15 minutes, the ride is over and you must leave the Spanish Main and return to California.
It is hard to say where life will take me and if I can count on Tinker Bell to fly me in the right direction. However, I have Walt Disney and all of his characters in my head and the spirit of Disneyland in my heart to take me down the correct path. I may take a wrong turn or two, but there are always ways of regaining your place. I know that Disney will always be there for me and, like Disneyland, I will never be complete.
(Thanks for reading!!! )