Thursday, May 30 2024 - 10:55 AM
Disney World
Photo by Dreamstime

A Little Bit of Magic

Life after high school felt life slowly sinking into a quicksand pit of worry, bills, and stress. Every step I took was a little harder. I could feel my mounting anxiety begin to push out the sense of wonder and love I felt so regularly as a child. By the time I finished my second year of college, I was coarse and rough. For my peers, I would put on a smiling face but barely smiled when I was alone. I didn’t say hello to strangers. And I didn’t get up early to watch the sunrise; I didn’t stay up late to watch a new movie. Every day was just that—a day I needed to get through to make it to the next one.

When my parents suggested a family trip to Disney World, I pushed back the excitement that sparked inside of me and threw out my best scoff.

“Disney World? Isn’t that a kid’s park?” I said.

“Yeah, but come on, it’ll be so fun!” my sister squealed.

I sighed, automatically reacting the way I felt like I was supposed to.

“Sure,” I said.

Planning Our Trip

I love planning trips, so I was tasked with creating our Disney vacation. Every day I became more and more intrigued by the pure enjoyment I saw on every website, blog post, and photo of Disney World I came across. How could these people be so happy? Can you really have that much fun? I couldn’t imagine what a smile like that would look like on my face. It felt unnatural, like a part of me that wasn’t allowed to exist anymore.

The day of the trip came, and after flying across the country and waking up early the next day, we stood together outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom. I could feel the energy of the other park goers and marveled at the sea of Mickey ears and brightly colored matching shirts. A small smile crept onto my face.

I pushed through the turnstiles, under the brick archway, and made my way to the beginning of Main Street, where I was stopped in my tracks. Light, cheery music floated through the air, the smell of sugary baked goods wafted around me, and a buzz of laughter and happy chatter came from every angle. I gazed down the street lined with shops representing a simpler time and brightly colored signs, and my eyes landed on the epitome of it all, Cinderella’s Castle. The marvelous blue structure towered over the guests promising nothing more or less than a magical day.

Pure Joy

I felt tears come to my eyes as I took it all in. I felt something stirring in my chest, and I could suddenly breathe more deeply—like my lungs were desperate to inhale this feeling. This was pure, unequivocal, no-strings-attached joy. Things were stressful and crazy and constantly changing outside the gates behind me, but here things were going to be okay.

The rest of the trip was filled with constant examples of kindness and goodwill—a crying child breaking into a smile the instant they saw Snow White come around the corner. A worker replacing someone’s bag of popcorn the second it accidentally fell onto the ground. And Peter Pan leaning down to get an autograph from a young girl in a dress because he was so excited to meet a princess.

It didn’t matter how old you were – everyone was a child at Disney World. The magic quickly made its way into my heart, and before I knew it, I was singing out loud and skipping down the street every morning. I screamed with joy on roller coasters, danced on the sidewalk as I savored a Dole Whip, and hugged Goofy tighter than I’d hugged anyone in a long time. As a result, I could feel the years of pressure to conform melt away as wonder and awe replaced it. I felt happy again. Genuinely, unapologetically happy.

Saying Goodbye

Tears came again on our last night, but they weren’t the same ones I used to shed alone in my room. These were the tears that come when you say goodbye to a friend, even though you know you’ll see them again soon. Disney World felt like a friend I wasn’t ready to leave. But I knew I’d be back. This place reminded me of who I really was and who I really wanted to be—someone full of love, hope, and a little bit of magic.

Anne Taylor writes from the Pacific Northwest.

If you liked this, you might also like Change of Plans | What Is Joy? 

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About Anne Taylor

Anne Taylor

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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