“If you can dream it you can do it. Just remember this whole thing was started by a mouse” Walt Disney
One of the consistent messages I hear from the midlife women I coach is that they have lost sight of what used to bring them joy. Somehow our inner child gets lost in the responsibilities of adulting and we forget to play, laugh and love our lives. As a self confessed Disney nerd there are so many lessons from Disney to be learnt.
Where It All Began
From a very young girl I have always had a love for Disney. One of my favourite photos from my childhood is me with Mickey Mouse at age three.
The first movie I saw at the pictures (which was what we called the movies back then) was a re-release of Sleeping Beauty. Back then going to the pictures was a huge event. We got dressed up and went into the “city” to watch the movie. Remember when there used to be an intermission and a beautiful red curtain drawn over the screen? I can still picture the theatre and feel the pure joy of watching this beautiful movie.
The Disney revival that began with the Little Mermaid arrived at a fairly chaotic time in my internal life. I was 14 years old, feeling all the feelings that a confused, angry and often times sad teenager can feel. Ariel was not much older than me. Which actually in hindsight is pretty scary considering she gets married at the end of the movie but it’s Disney so let’s gloss over that. Something about her struggles – feeling like she didn’t fit in and longing for something more – really resonated with my teenage self.
The next few years saw some wonderful Disney classics with similarly inspiring female characters. Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. All of these movies end in happily ever after and the princess being “saved” by a man. It is not this message that my teenage self connected with but how passionately these princesses pursued their dreams and made bold choices to progress their own lives. They had big dreams (none of which initially involved a man) and they had the courage to go after those dreams. My teenage self also had big dreams and these characters gave me hope my dreams could come true.
Revisiting My Childhood
As I reached adulthood my love for Disney never changed but different ways to experience it opened up to me. I followed the path of many Australians and moved to London for several years. Suddenly Disneyland Paris was easily accessible and the US wasn’t that far away which meant Disneyland. There is nothing quite like the experience of visiting a Disney park for me. It recaptures the feelings of being a child again. Free of responsibilities and full of the joy of life with endless dreams and possibilities.
I remember lining up for ages to get a picture of myself with Winnie the Pooh. Pretty funny for a 25 year old woman but at Disney anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how old you are if you want a picture with Winnie the Pooh that is ok. If you want to ride a children’s ride about a boy who never grows up at age 30 then that is ok as well.
Disney as a Mum
Disney has an even closer hold on my heart now I am a Mum. Getting to witness the joy on my three year olds face as he met Mickey, Minnie and all his other Disney heroes is so precious. Being only three years old I was able to take my son to a princess lunch and he loved every minute of it (not sure how he’ll feel about it when he’s 21 though!). Cinderella gave him a sparkly kiss on his autograph book and he still talks about how he was her little Prince. Disney as a child is pure joy. You believe you are meeting the real Mickey Mouse and not just somebody dressed up in a costume. When we met Thumper and Miss Bunny he had so much fun playing with their tails (I’m sure the characters didn’t have quite so much fun). It was a moment in time (captured in a photo of course) where we were just together having fun.
Planning a Disney Holiday
My family are holidaying in Walt Disney World in 2018. Planning a trip to Disneyworld is like a military operation. There is so much research, so many blogs to read, so many podcasts to listen to and so much pre-planning. Did you know if you want to eat at some of the popular restaurants in WDW you have to book a table 180 days in advance? If you want to ride the popular rides you can book a Fastpass 60 days in advance? You can even prepare hour by hour (or minute by minute if you want) touring plans. What that means is 180 days out from our Disneyworld trip I have to decide what I might feel like eating or doing on a Tuesday in November and more importantly what my family might feel like doing. That might sound crazy and you know what I love it! I’ve spent hours pouring over my plans, listening to podcasts, reading restaurant menus, deciding what characters to meet and throwing myself into the world that is Disney.
Lessons Learnt from Disney
As you can see I have a life long love (or could we call it obsession) with Disney. 2017 was a difficult year for me personally with the death of my friend and the unhappiness with my career. Immersing myself in planning a WDW holiday allowed me to escape into a world of dreams and fantasy. I learnt a few things that I feel to share.
Dreams can come true
If you’ve read my story you will know I’ve recently made an enormous change in my life. I left a career that no longer fulfilled me to chase a dream. While I am still in a transition phase I already feel I am living that dream. There is so much joy, calm, excitement and fear in going after what you dream for your life.
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you”
As Walt Disney said “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them”. It required courage to leave a secure, well paid job to pursue my dream of helping women in their 40s create the life they envision. I’ve been open about the fear but also the joy and happiness that has come from being brave. I truly believe all my dreams will come true (they already are).
Find Your Joy
I am a qualified accountant so it isn’t surprising that I’m very organised and love planning. There has been a temptation as I move towards a new life to dismiss those aspects of myself that remind me of the “accountant in me”. You know what planning this holiday has reminded me. I find enormous joy and pleasure in planning, organising and yes even spreadsheets. Disney has reminded me to follow my joy whatever that may be.
Embrace your inner child
“That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up” Walt Disney
Disney has taught me to embrace the child within me. The child who can be silly, joyful and full of emotion. I’m not embarrassed to admit I cried when I watched a You Tube video of the Happily Ever After Fireworks. The music, the projections, the fireworks all remind me of my childhood, my hopes and my dreams. There is something very powerful in the way Disney is able to tug on our heartstrings and remind us of the child within.
Slow Down and Let Go
Ok full disclosure this is a lesson I hope to apply when we are actually on our WDW holiday. Having spent the best part of 12 months planning to what is a ridiculous level of detail I know I will need to let go and just flow with the moment when we are there. I have no control over weather, illness, grumpy children, rides breaking down, other guests or any of the myriad of things that could disrupt my plans. If I spend the entire time racing us from here to there without looking up to enjoy the moment it will be an opportunity lost. I want to enjoy spending time with my family in the most magical place on earth.
Fully embracing and owning my inner Disney geek is a beautiful sign to me that I am truly beginning to accept myself for exactly who I am and what I love. May there be many more years filled with the joy of Disney.
What brings you joy and helps you rediscover your inner child?
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