Growing Up Disney

I am a Disney whore.

For those of you who don’t know what that means:

Really though, I belong to that generation that grew up with at least one new Disney film every year and an endless supply of happily ever afters floating in the air. Even when I was living with my then-single mother and single grandmother, we made a trip every year to Disneyland Anaheim. As a kid I watched The Little Mermaid so many times I’ve no idea how that tape didn’t just implode (because this was back in that so-far-ago time of VHS cassettes and the constant fear that the tape may just one day break.) Even as a straight-up tomboy, I always kind of wanted to be a Disney princess – Belle, because she gets that kick-ass library – and I was an avid follower of the ritual of wishing on stars. Although I never did master that whole “paint with the wind” thing; I could never figure how to get the wind to stick on my paintbrush.

To make a long story short – too late – Disney has always been a crucial part of my life.

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For the most part this has been a good thing for me. Disney films, and fairy tales in general, give us all that one commodity that is so precious in life: hope. They teach us to believe in good, that bad will always be beaten, that there’s nothing wrong with being different, and that in the end, no matter how difficult the journey, we will all find a happily ever after. That optimism and faith got me through more than one dark time and even now, when things get tough I always fall back on my favorite Disney flicks for comfort and reassurance.

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The Disney franchise as a whole also teaches the importance and power of imagination, which is obviously a lesson that resonated with me since I grew up – I use the term “grew up” loosely, mind – with the aim of being a fiction writer. Imagination is my favorite trait about myself, and it would not be a stretch to say that my imagination, and by extension my writing, has saved my life. I genuinely would not be here today otherwise. Imagination gave me a safe place to retreat when things became difficult, and there I was able to cope with the things that I could not make sense of in reality. Life problems became dragons and wicked witches, and in my mind I found the sword that helped me to slay them even if it didn’t exist in the real world, which helped me to put those troubles to rest at the back of my mind. It helped me find peace and work through the harshness of life.

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Disney as a whole has been such an influential part of my growth that I can’t differentiate between what I believed before and what has been touched by the world of Disney’s magic. I grew up in a world of mystery and adventure and magic, and that mentality has never really left me. Deep down, beneath the cynicism and weariness that adulthood has brought upon me, I still unequivocally want to believe in happy endings.

And there, in and of itself, is the one crucial defect that Disney has left implanted in my mind. I believe too much. I see the good in everyone, whether they deserve it or not. I want to believe that there is a prince hidden beneath the coarse exterior of every man, and that he only needs my love to break the curse. I want to believe that just fearlessly jumping into a new world in search of my dreams will somehow always work itself out. And every time that I am proven wrong, it hurts. Not just on a basic, “I failed and that’s upsetting” level, but on a deep, spiritual level. It puts a scar on my soul. It’s like having someone give me definitive proof that my God isn’t real.

Because in the end, I think that’s what fairy tales have become for me. They aren’t just charming tales for children, or musical films to cheer me up. They are my mythology, my faith, my religion. I am a Disney-ian. Disney-ist? Something like that.

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When the chips are down though, I wouldn’t trade my mentality for anything. I have something that so few people get to have anymore. I have innocence and naivety. I can still look around at the world through the eyes of a child and find the magic and beauty hidden behind everything. I can look into the darkness and see hope and a future. I believe.

Disney has taught me so many valuable lessons. That a person is who they are inside, not what they look like or the circumstances they were born into. That love can be found in the most unexpected places. That nothing is more important than chasing your dreams and finding a way to enjoy the life you live. That growing up doesn’t mean having to get old. That you can do anything, if you’ve got faith, trust, and a little pixie dust.

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So when the rest of the world is caving into depression and hopelessness, I will still be there, wishing on my stars and chasing my dreams and having faith that, at the end of the road, there will always be a happy ending waiting for me. Because I can do it. Because I can keep moving forward. Because every good, great thing that’s ever happened in this world has been started by one, singular person. And I can be that person.

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I make my own happy ever after.

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