I’ve failed to dedicate my previous posts like I had set out to do, so I’m trying to right the ship. I’m dedicating this post to my sister-in-law, Erin. She’s following her dream, something we, or at least I, often forget how to do…
If you’re reading this, chances are you know me (I don’t think I’ve broken into the community of awesome bloggers yet who are read by strangers around the world – maybe next week). Therefore, you probably know my wife, Anna, and know of she and her family’s love of all things Disney, especially Disney World. I wouldn’t say they’re the type of fanatics that have covered their homes from floor to ceiling with Disney paraphernalia, nor have they ever found themselves in a court of law being handed restraining orders from Hollywood Studios (MGM Studios if you’re a true fan). Disney World holds a special place in their hearts, though, and is more than just a destination or vacation.
Anna has seven siblings. Yes, that’s a total of eight children. They’re a blended family, but at the end of the day, they’re brothers and sisters, and a very much loving family at that. When the children were young, the brave, slightly crazy parents (who wouldn’t be slightly crazy with eight dependents?) invested early in the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), which is essentially a timeshare in Disney World with various benefits. Since the DVC was fairly young at this point, one of the benefits as a member were free park-hopper passes for the entire family. Somehow, they were able to hornswagle the DVC for several (seven, I think) years of free park-hopper passes. Now I don’t know the exact numbers, but if you know anything about Disney, you know it’s not always the “cheapest option.” In my opinion, it’s worth every dollar; but, it’s still expensive. So, class, I’ll let you do the math: 10 family members + free park-hopper passes for seven years = GREAT DEAL. As you can probably imagine, the family took quite a few trips to Disney World. Sure, there were travel costs, but this was at a time when airline tickets didn’t cost as much as a monthly car payment for a Bentley (I’ll let you determine which Bentley you can afford ). While many of us spent our summers swimming at local pools or giving Wonder Bread to ducks at the local park, Anna’s family was swimming at Typhoon Lagoon, slappin’ fives with Goofy, and giving leftover ice cream cones to Donald Duck. And who can blame them, my family was probably paying more in membership costs to the Dolphin Club than they were to Disney World!
When these annually, semi-annually, monthly, or weekly trips to Disney World began, Anna and her sisters were all very young. Naturally, they were in love with the Disney princesses, as many young girls are. Each sister found one to identify with; Anna – Snow White, Jenn – Belle, Aly – Jasmine, Erin – Ariel, and Mollie – Cinderella. From my understanding, these were not randomly assigned nor were they forced to “pick-a-princess and stick with it,” it just turned out that way.
As time passed and the girls grew up, their love and identifications with the princesses remained. I should say this wasn’t and has never been bizarre or what others might look at as “weird.” Anna didn’t dress-up like Snow White for our wedding. Nevertheless, their childlike wonder and awe has never ceased. Not only did the girls’ love of the princesses remain, but the entire family’s love of Disney remained. Disney World has remained a place to relive old memories and create new ones, especially as the eight siblings have grown and are no longer under the same roof. It’s served as a few family vacations since I joined the family. Anna’s brother, Jon, proposed to his fiance, Mindy, at Epcot. And, the idea of running through the parks of Disney World even lured Anna in to running her first half-marathon this past January (that’s another story altogether).
Though the Disney love is still strong throughout the family, one members’ affection for Disney has always stood out. If you’re familiar with any of the Disney princesses and their stories, you know the common theme is dreaming big, marrying the prince, moving up and out of their current predicament, etc. In the most recent Disney film involving a princess, “The Princess and the Frog,” Tiana is a wonderful cook and dreams of opening her a restaurant of her own.
Erin, as you recall, identified with Ariel, a mermaid who dreamed of living as a human above the water. This is a tall order, even for more modern thinkers; we all know mermaids and humans don’t get along Erin, despite realizing that humans and mermaids could never coexist, dreamed of working at or for Disney, even as a young girl. She first saw this come to fruition as she came across an opportunity to work with the Disney College Program. Despite this being a solo pursuit, Erin explored and soon found herself in the Disney College Program in the Spring semester of 2009. What once was a dream was becoming a reality, even if just for a few months. While the employment opportunities in this program vary from cashiers to custodians, Erin found herself as various costumed characters, something not many first-time employees have the chance to do. She quickly mastered Goofy’s signature (even while wearing those massive gloves) and impressively aped Carl’s walker-assisted strut.
Erin returned from Disney World at the end of the semester, but maintained her status as an employee by working a day or two at a time over the following summer, breaks from school, etc. Just a few weeks ago, on one of these trips to work and maintain her status, she auditioned as one of The Ugly Stepsisters from “Cinderella.” This role would be a “face character” in one of the parades, meaning her face would be exposed, not covered up with a Mickey or Goofy head. To us outsiders, this may not seem like a big deal. In the Disney circuit, though, it’s a huge deal. Many employees work many years before becoming a face character. Without much time passing, they offered a full-time position to Erin as an Ugly Stepsister, and they wanted her to start within two weeks. Erin obviously wanted to accept but had to look at all the logistics that come with a new job and moving, taking a break from school, etc. The following days involved a lot of phone calls, tense moments, discussions, and prayers to figure out how to make this happen. This was her dream unfolding, perhaps in a more realistic way than before, and she was determined to turn her dream into a reality.
You can probably imagine how this story ends: Erin accepted the position at Disney World and is beginning a new journey, following her dream. What I’ve skimmed over, and for many reasons, are the sacrifices and stresses that have come along with following this dream. I’ve left those details out, though, because I feel like it’s the details that often hinder us from following our dreams. We talk ourselves in and out of decisions so quickly because of the details, the “what ifs?”, the consequences or potential consequences. I’m not suggesting we should ignore these details or write them off. It’s these details that keep us in-check, grounded. I think there’s a fine line between being grounded or anchored in the realities of our dreams, and being restrained by them. Last night, Anna and I were driving to meet some of her family to celebrate Jasmine’s…ehh…I mean Aly’s birthday. I had my iPod on shuffle and Jack Johnson’s “Dreams Be Dreams” came on. I’ve always liked the song and even know the lyrics fairly well. The song is fairly short and the lyrics are simple, so don’t be too impressed. It’s not like I memorized the guitar solo to Free Bird. In the song, he repeats the phrase “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” Last night, I heard that phrase in a new way: “Don’t let your dreams [just] be dreams.” Erin has figured out a way to not let her dreams just be dreams. I hope I can figure that out for myself, and I hope you can too. If you already have, kudos to you. As Will Ferrell so eloquently said in “Wedding Crashers” despite living with his mother, eating meatloaf, and threatening others with nunchucks, you’re just “living the dream.”