Holidays are hard sometimes. Especially in families of divorce, having to strategically plan out, year after year, how to balance an equal amount of time for both mom’s family and dad’s family without disappointing either parents can cause silly and unnecessary stress upon us kids. As I sit here on Christmas evening, having nothing to do but spend quality time with the people that love me the most (even if it means going back and forth between different houses throughout the day), I know deep in my heart that leaving Disney to come home and spend the holidays with my family– despite the minor stressors that the holidays may cause– was the absolute best decision I possibly could have made. An unknown author once said that “the love of a family is life’s greatest blessing” and as I get older and travel and live my own life, I can understand with more clarity and appreciation just how much that quote proves to be true. New experiences are fun and I’ve developed quite the habit of leaving home to embark on new adventures, but there truly is no place like home and no better feeling than the warm unconditional love that family provides.
The Disney College Program was something that I had wanted to participate in for years. Once I had finally received that much anticipated “Congratulations!” email from WDW recruiting, I felt like a dream was coming true for me.
Growing up, there was nothing that evoked so much excitement in my heart as did hearing the words “we’re going to Disneyland”. The night before leaving to the happiest place on Earth was more exciting than the night before Christmas. We had the drill down to a tee and executed it annually for our yearly Disney vacation: Dad would wake us up (if we even were able to sleep from the elation that usually kept us up) and our family began our 8 hour road trip from Tucson, AZ to Anaheim, CA around 2 am in order to get there just after park opening around 10 am. Walking through those main entrance gates with the Disney music of our favorite attractions dancing on our eardrums while we inhaled the scent of fresh cookies on Main Street was an all too familiar experience. Disney had played such a significant role in my childhood and getting to work for them seemed like the most extraordinary opportunity.
When I first arrived to Orlando in August, I was so engulfed in the Disney bubble and wrapped up in the magic of the company that I already wished that I could stay for as long as I could. I was already wishing that I could extend into the spring semester, but fortunately now, I had already made the commitment to head teach in Mexico. In September the thoughts of possibly self-terming invaded my mind. In October, I called my mom crying struggling with the internal conflict of whether to go home or continue on in this experience. She flew me home on the soonest flight and upon my return to Orlando, my heart and soul felt fuller from my trip back to Arizona and I thought I could continue on. In November after Thanksgiving, the thought of just getting up and going home was a constant annoyance that resulted in another breakdown, to my dad this time. I wanted nothing more than to be home, be done with this program, and to be surrounded by people who love me and who I’m most comfortable with. I lived in China and I was never this homesick, so I knew something wasn’t right here. I decided time after time, breakdown after breakdown that I would just tough it out and finish the program. I wouldn’t give up. I would finish what I started. I even made it far enough to attend our DCP graduation and receive my Mickey graduation ears and certificate of completion. I was determined that I could finish it out; however, when my mom called me last weekend and offered to fly out ASAP and drive back with me, I originally convinced her and myself that I only had a few weeks left and I should stay. As I stayed on the phone longer, I actually became giddy talking about getting up and leaving as soon as the following day. Was this stupid and reckless? Probably. But I felt a happiness that I hadn’t in a while when I thought about leaving. I made the decision in an instant and didn’t look back. My mom bought a ticket for that night from AZ to FL and I packed up my room and spent the night hanging out with my roommates for one last time. We went to the Polynesian resort to eat dole whip and watch the fireworks show from the Polynesian beach.
The drive across the country from Orlando to Tucson was absolute hell and I vow to never drive across the country again. On Thursday afternoon as I drove into Tucson from I-10 east and saw downtown to my right and A-Mountain to my left, my heart was finally at ease and my body could relax. Going to my dad’s house and eating chorizo and egg, cuddling my beautiful pups, lolling around the kitchen in the morning talking with my mom, lounging on the couch at my nana’s house are all priceless moments that I wouldn’t trade for another moment in Florida. I had struggled immensely over the internal conflict of whether to self-term or not for months. When I finally decided, I felt relieved although slightly sad, naturally. My time in Disney definitely wasn’t entirely bad and there are a lot of things I was thankful of Disney for; most especially for giving the little girl who had so much love for Disney a chance to work for the mouse. I didn’t want leaving to be a mistake. Last Saturday I went to the service center inquiring about how to go about self-terming, and the kind woman at the counter let me know that “Disney will always be there for you- it’s only a six-month restricted rehire”. That’s it? “So self-terming isn’t the worst thing in the world? That’s all that happens?” I asked her. “That’s it”, she told me. And I knew then that I wasn’t making a mistake. Being here with my family for Christmas, spending time in my beautiful hometown, and catching up with my incredible family and friends before I set off to Mexico for the spring semester is 100% better than trying to tough out something that just wasn’t right for me. I started reading an amazing book called Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and there was a piece of that book that really resonated with me and gave me comfortable reassurance I needed to leave without feeling guilty. She explains that there comes a time when you need to just say “no”. “No” to people’s requests, “no” to your chaotic life, “no” to what is making you unhappy, and “no” to anything that is not helping you. I said “no” to Disney and “yes” to my happiness. I left a week ago and I still don’t have a single twinge of regret about self-terming. This experience may be the best of many other people’s lives, but it wasn’t the one for me.