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What 20 years of Disney Has Taught Me

Walt Disney once said, “The real trouble with the world is too many people grow up”. I recently celebrated my twentieth birthday at Disneyland. In all of my twenty years, there has never been a year that I have not made a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. My family has always been avid fans of all things Disney. My grandparents went to the park the first year it was open in 1955 and the magic of that experience has spread through three generations of Gotelli’s. Although oftentimes this obsession has opened me up to playful ridicule from my friends about how childish and innocent I am to want to go back even after all these years, Disney will always be a special place for me. I understand that Disney is a corporation and a corporation that has not always done the right thing, but I try to focus more on all the good Disney has done for this world. While my young adult cynicism recognizes the fact that it is an amusement park and none of the magic is real, every time I walk down main street, the childlike awe in me comes out and I get chills.

Photo by Benjamin Suter on Unsplash

Above everything Disneyland to me represents family. Whether watching the parades with all my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on mainstreet or posing for pictures with the heroes, villains, and princesses we watched every day on the screen, Disneyland is a place of family time. The parks are one of the few places left where, beyond snapping a few pictures or checking line times, my family truly disconnect from our phones and just spend our time talking and laughing with each other. We are all just so blessed to be in that space and have each other to share that experience with. Although I always feel grateful for my family, in my day to day life it is easy to get distracted with other things and forget to take a moment to appreciate them. But when we are at Disney, every time we are waiting in line or I look over and see them smiling on a ride, I am reminded of how lucky I am. Disney reminds me to be thankful for my family and how important it is to just spend time with them completely undistracted. 

Along with the nostalgic memories I have of days filled with enchantment and wonder as a kid, watching the fireworks or meeting princesses, Disney is one of the few places left where I feel like I can truly escape the real world. All the stress of school, work, relationships, and all the other terrible things going on in the world fly out the window in the park. In the lines at Disneyland it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what your background is, you are welcome. Children don’t judge or hold hate in their hearts, they approach the world with a sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty they see in every small thing. Disney teaches me how to be a kid again. And if being inspired by the Disney magic that brings people together in acceptance and love makes me childish, then I guess I am ok with that.


Hayley Gotelli

Pepperdine '21

I am currently a Junior at Pepperdine University pursuing a degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications with a minor in Computer Science. I am a proud Bay Area native who adores watching old movies and reading. However my favorite thing to do is travel. Always down for an adventure, I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. You can always find me with a camera or a pen in my hand trying to capture beauty around me.
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