Build Up. Explode. Take Stock. (Recalibrating After Disappointment)

This week, Disney Resort announced it’s dissolving the Guest Talent Program. I know the cast members who worked this program are mightily disappointed. I am too, though I think probably my disappointment pales in comparison to theirs. I interviewed for GTP in 2018, made the final round of interviews in 2019, and felt very hopeful that 2020 would be the year I would get my casting call. I prepared the blog post below one year ago in a bid at manifestation. I am sharing it here, because there’s something to be learned in defeat and disappointment:

“In 1985, I visited for the first time. I rode the teacups and Space Mountain; I stood just a little behind Morgan Freeman (yes, that Morgan Freeman) in line for the Haunted Mansion, Travis bought a sweater with a chenille Mickey that I made my own before my eldest daughter, in turn, made it hers. A tiny seed, mustard sized, was planted.

A handful of years later, I attended a family reunion where I met my cousin Tommy, an Imagineer. He told me about his work in Florida, designing for the happiest place on Earth. He loved his job, I had never really given thought to it: people made careers of working at Disneyworld. Another seed was dropped.

In 2015, I visited Disneyland again, this time as an adult with adult daughters. I bought my first pair of ears right in front of the Abraham Lincoln Hall so that I could hop in line for a photo with Minnie right that minute. I spent two days taking it all in: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the Electric Parade, Pirates of the Caribbean. By this time in my career, I had moved out of teaching and into the world of theme parks, and I began to realize there was a whole world available where I might be able to work. A place where excellence, imagination, and story were paramount. The biggest seed yet was planted in the soil of my spirit.

All these seeds lay fallow until 2018, when I attended a Disney Institute Leadership Summit, where I met the head of the Guest Talent Program. My passion for the world of Disney had made an impression. By the final dinner, I was being taken by the hand to meet various executives, and I was invited to apply for the program that hosts student and community talent groups. Suddenly, water was added to the seeds that had waited in the dark soil, waiting for my kids to be raised, for my career to shift gears. My two careers: theatre teaching and theme park management had combined to create just the right mix.

All I needed was sunshine, and that came in the form of my sweet husband, my kids, and a few trusted friends. All these loves started praying and manifesting. Though I did have interviews, I didn’t get the job in 2018. That felt okay, I knew my daughter needed me as she approached having her first baby, my husband needed to move into a new job, there were a few things that just needed organizing. I didn’t give up hope, but I did start working on other projects.

Then.

THEN…

wholly unexpected, I opened my email to see an invitation: was I interested in interviewing for the department again? Yes, yes, yes.

calm Disney

And so here I am. I am about to leave for Anaheim, where I will spend my days with student groups, taking everything I have learned about teaching and classroom management as well as all the skills I honed running the School Days program at Texas Renaissance  Festival to walk alongside them in the most magical place I know. I will get to share my love of theatre and my love of Mickey Mouse. I don’t know if this will be a forever career or a seasonal one, but I have spent enough time among seasonal festival business people to have no fear of the unknown. It’s a big adventure that I am setting upon. As Rapunzel might say, ‘Venture outside your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it.’ — Tangled”

It’s a year later. I had held on to this post, hoping it would be needed this fall; I was going to reapply for the Guest Talent Program, trusting the third time would be the charm. Instead, the program is gone due to Covid.

I am shifting my thinking, looking for opportunities in new places and preparing myself for them, places where my values of excellence, creativity, and wholesomeness are in sync with the organization. I’m studying, taking courses, making connections. Seeing a therapist to help me sort out my thoughts. Most importantly, I am practicing flexibility and hope. It’s a practice that requires intention and stamina, and it’s what’s going to keep me moving, growing, and contributing, no matter where I land.

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