It’s been a year since Mickey Mouse handed me my Walt Disney World name tag. I remember being assigned to work in the Senses Spa locations at the Grand Floridian and Saratoga Springs as a spa attendant. Every morning I would leap out of bed, throw on my costume and drive cheerfully to my job, anticipating all the magical moments I would get to create that day with my fellow cast members. There was nothing better than working in the happiest place on earth.
Then, the word “coronavirus” started creeping into my narrative. It seemed like such an insignificant worry. Rumors about shutdowns floated around. Hand sanitizing stations were being posted left and right. People joked about how nice a two-week vacation would be. And suddenly, every single college program participant had four days to throw all their belongings in suitcases and wave goodbye to the most magical place on earth.
I’m grateful for the two months I had eating Mickey ice cream bars and exploring the parks with my roommates and coworkers, but the thought that I missed out on four months of my program still makes me teary. I was supposed to have four more months of hugging Tinkerbell. Four more months of creating magical moments for guests coming to the spa. Four more months to cross everything off my Disney bucket list.
Before we all understood how severe the pandemic actually was, I held on to the dream that I’d be able to return to the parks as soon as I graduated. Here I am, approaching graduation, and the College Program is still indefinitely canceled. Every time I see an advertisement to book a vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort, it’s a constant reminder of the program I lost.
I’m painfully jealous of the future college program participants. Not only will those lucky students have a full program, but they’ll get to live in the brand new apartment complex, Flamingo Crossings, which was the apartment complex I was supposed to live in during the last two months of my program. As charming as my Disney apartment was, it’s nothing compared to Flamingo Crossings. It’s practically a resort with its two pools, huge lounge areas, gorgeous decorations and bright rooms.
Sadly, the College Program isn’t the only one who had to leave their Disney life behind. When Disney let go of 23,000 employees, I watched almost every single one of my fellow spa cast members lose their jobs. A small handful of them were fortunate enough to latch on to a new location in the parks. It was already hard enough leaving the most joyful coworkers behind, but to now think about the spa collecting dust because the people who made it magical have been let go of makes the thought even harder to bear.
It’s impossible not to think about all the memories I could’ve had. The heartbreak of losing my dream of five years still stings my eyes with tears. If only pixie dust was enough to erase the whole pandemic. Every time I sit down at my desk, I glance over to my Disney name tag and wonder when Disney’s hiring freeze will lift. My heart would soar out of my chest if I was able to regularly wear that name tag again. Until then, I’ll keep wishing on the second star to the right until my dream of working for Disney again comes true.