Looking back on 2019, I took a lot of chances, applied to jobs I didn’t feel qualified for, said yes to taking trips, took chances on friendships and relationships. The biggest chance I took was accepting a contract to work as part of the Entertainment staff on a Disney Cruise Line ship, and in the eight months of my contract, I learned more than I ever dreamed possible.
Ever since I was a child, performing for Disney was my dream job. After auditioning for countless dance programs and being told “no” over and over again, I simply accepted that dancing would take a back seat in my life, become a hobby, while I went to school for something more practical. In college I still made time to dance, I took work-study positions at nearby dance studios in exchange for free classes, on top of already working several jobs and being a full-time student. The late nights walking back from the dance studio in freezing Boston winters were worth the joy and growth I experienced as a dancer. It was the absolute perfect balance, I loved my classes and my “day” job, while my nights were reserved for being in the studio. I wouldn’t have traded a minute of my day for all the magic and all the treasures in the world.
I auditioned for Disney Cruise Line on a whim, a weekend trip to New York City, “just for the experience.” I wasn’t expecting to make it past the first round, told my parents I wouldn’t take the contract even if I did. Two months later, sitting in my cubicle at my government job I screamed to my boss that I had gotten the job. Accepting the contract would mean giving up my perfect life, the perfect combination of part-time jobs, the perfect graduation plan, the perfect room in a suite with all my best friends, but it would mean taking a chance on my childhood dream.
Every step of the way, from auditions to training, to casting, to our first months on the ship, I experienced impostor syndrome. Everyone in the room had a degree in theatre or dance, all I had was free training from my local studios. I learned to accept the performer I was, with all of the shortcomings and the successes that entailed. I learned that in the gaps between those two, lay opportunity and that was the most exciting part, even if it didn’t feel that way at first.
Ship life itself also taught me to wander, to love being alone. The first few months after embark were incredibly lonely. I had always been a shy kid, and having no way to contact my loved ones back home only exacerbated that sense of isolation. Just like Lilo on her knees begging for an angel, I prayed for a friend. All it took was a little patience, and into my life walked some of the most incredible friends I could have asked for, while at the same time I grew more and more used to appreciating my time alone. I read on deck for hours and hours on end, wandered the streets of each port just for the sake of it. Even after my friendships had blossomed into beautiful bouquets, I often found myself alone, either by chance or by choice, and I learned to savor those moments.
Working for Disney also taught me that while I may be working for the most magical company in the world, not all of the days can be magic days. Everyone back home would fawn over how amazing my life looked through a screen, and even the slightest of frustrations would be met with accusations that I wasn’t grateful for my life. Throughout my time on the ship, I learned that no matter how much I loved my job, and how many times I saw a beautiful sunset at sea, I could still have a bad day and not feel guilty for it. I learned to breathe through those difficult moments, to turn to words for solace, and the friends I’d made for comfort. This ability to recognize both the good and the bad, to fully experience both without feeling guilty for either was what shaped me the most.
It was once I let go of my impostor syndrome, of my fear of being alone and learned to breathe through the tough spots, that the magic really started. I went on adventures I could have only dreamed about simply by saying yes, I grew to love my job and all the tiny moments of magic it created for me and found gratitude in every day, even the bad days. This video is a compilation of all of it, the love, the gratitude, the growth. Of every moment that blew my mind, and made me better. Of the mountains I climbed, the roads I wandered, the seas I dipped my toes into. Of every chance I took.