Re-post By guest blogger Carrie Rings
I am an Ohioan living in Florida. Thanks to a transfer from his job, my husband and I along with our two daughters aged 18 and 20, packed up all our belongings and relocated to the Sunshine State. The first two months were like we were on vacation. We rented a second-floor condo overlooking the water and we went to the beach and pool often. Nothing helped soothe my anxiety of living in a state where I knew no one but my family like digging my feet in the sand and letting my head get filled with the roar of the ocean waves to give me temporary break from remembering all my family and friends we left behind.
After a few months I decided it was time to find a job, something I did reluctantly as I was not ready to leave my comfort zone and begin my journey of meeting new coworkers and learning new job tasks. My first few weeks were very emotional and I wasn’t sure I would ever fit in. One of my coworkers, Amy, spoke frequently of Disney. I explained to Amy that like any other typical American my family and I had gone to Disney (by Disney I meant the Magic Kingdom) a few times and to Epcot in 1991 and really felt no need to return. The raised eyebrow look she gave me was one I will never forget. It’s the same look I’m sure many of you reading this have given others when they speak of Walt Disney World in the manner. Amy spent the next 10 months sharing all her families past and present adventures at the various Disney parks encouraging me to join her sometime. After a time I became amazed at all the insider information she had in regards to the parks but yet I kept thinking who needs to go to Disney THIS much? Seriously, once you’ve rode Space Mountain and had your picture taken with a Disney princess is there really a need to do it again? Do I really need this My Disney Experience app she downloaded on my phone? An annual pass? I would never get my money’s worth! She even had me join this Facebook group called TMSM Fan Nation in hopes of sparking an interest in heading to the parks. As I read all the posts, I just couldn’t figure it out. The people on that page were just over the top! So many people, most of them grown adults wearing mouse ears, magic bands arriving for upcoming trips (what are these magic bands?) and being so giddy they received “fast passes” for all the rides they were hoping for just boggled my mind. Still, I fought the need to go no matter how much Amy tried.
This past May, our youngest daughter Brooke, graduated from High School and all our family from Ohio were coming to Florida for the celebration. Amy had shared with me that the year prior she had purchased a Mickey ear hat with a graduation cap that was personalized for her son for his graduation. Since my youngest sister and her family were going to spend a week at Disney after the graduation I thought maybe I would have Amy get me one of those hats on her next trip and I would treat Brooke to a trip to Magic Kingdom to celebrate her accomplishment. Brooke was of course, embarrassed to wear her hat but humored me and did it anyway stating she would wear it for just a little while. And then……the magic began to happen. Everyone walking by her congratulated her on her graduation and other recent grads were asking her where she got that fabulous hat. Cast members near and far were shouting congratulations and giving her high fives. The smile on her face that day was one I will never forget. Nor the image in my head of her still wearing her hat on the hour and a half ride home at the end of the day.
A few weeks later, my husband and Brooke went back to Ohio to visit family and friends. It was my birthday and our oldest daughter Brenna suggested she and I go spend the day at Magic Kingdom since she didn’t get to go the previous month. In my head I was thinking, why would I want to go, I was JUST there. So we went and I got one of the fancy It’s My Birthday buttons to wear and feeling a little silly having it on. Just as Brooke had experienced perfect strangers and cast members were shouting Happy Birthday Carrie from all over. I even got a free Mickey hot pretzel from the pretzel cart with a shout out of Have a Magical Day as I walked away. The magic of the day happened as we were on our way out of the park and shopping through the Main Street emporium to stay out of the rain. An older Cast Member approached me and inquired if it was truly my birthday or just close to it. When I replied that it was in fact today he sang me a song. It was beautiful and made me feel pretty special. Then he lead me to the middle of the store and placed his hand on my shoulder and shouted out ATTENTION! Today is Carrie’s birthday. Please join my in singing happy birthday to her. The ENTIRE emporium sang to me bringing me to tears. Today, at this moment, it really was The Happiest Place on Earth!
The girls and I have since bought annual passes and spent an hour debating on what color magic bands to order. I’ve gone to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom with Amy and she has aided me on the ins and outs of the parks, navigating the Food and Wine Festival and mastering the My Disney Experience app. We even catch ourselves checking the app at work to see how long the wait is for Seven Dwarves Mine Train!
Two weeks ago my husband and I traveled to Orlando for a weekend for his companies Christmas party. When we checked into the hotel we were told that we had a balcony room that faced Disney Springs and that we would a great view of the fireworks at both Epcot and Magic Kingdom. This was so exciting as I had never seen the fireworks before! We watched them that night with some friends and decided we would go to Epcot the next day before all the festivities were to begin that evening. As we sat at breakfast our friends had many Disney related questions and I was able to answer them all. They liked that I had so much knowledge of the parks. I explained that I learned all this from a coworker who was a true Disney fan. I was just someone who had gone to the parks 5 or 6 times recently! We had a fabulous day! I shared my fast pass knowledge, how to navigate the MDE app and what rides to get on right away to avoid the long lines as well as where to find a free small drink and to avoid the Beverly at all costs! Before we left Epcot our friends said they wanted to enjoy more of Walt Disney World and bought annual passes and I bought one for my husband as a Christmas gift.
As we left the park that day I realized I had become just like Amy. I now understand the magic everyone feels when visiting. I post pictures of our visits on that Fan page that I once thought was full of crazed fans only to find that they are a great group of people, some of whom I’ve met at the Meet Up’s and enjoy seeing all of their posts as well. Meeting Michele was like meeting a celebrity to me! This past Wednesday my girls and I hopped in the car at 4 pm and drove to Hollywood Studios just to see the Osborne Lights that we had heard so much about and couldn’t let them go away forever without experiencing them ourselves. What a beautiful sight they were. Totally worth the drive! It’s official, I’ve drank the Disney Kool-Aid and I’m not ashamed of it. I get it now and want to share it with the rest of the world. I am now a Floridian with deep Ohio roots. That being said, my magic band is in the car and there are currently no fast passes loaded on my MDE app. Who wants to go to Disney with me?