I’ve written in the past about my love for Disneyland. Growing up a twenty minute drive from Disneyland, I had plenty of opportunities to go to the parks and have a lot of fond memories there from my childhood.
I went to Disney World with my dad’s side of the family around the age of 3 and remember some vague things about it. I remember staying up til midnight in the timeshare, sleeping next to my aunt and eagerly showing her the time. (I had never stayed up that late before.) I remember walking around Epcot and landing in Japan01 Epcot is a park at Disney World where each area of the park is a different country to showcase that country's culture and cuisine and also the Disney movies that may take place in that region. and getting upset when I saw my uncle take a photo with Mulan because his girlfriend was there. (Once again, I was three. My understanding of Disney characters and relationships was a bit skewed and I thought my uncle in close proximity to a woman, especially Mulan of all women, was catastrophic.)
For this spring break, I spent three days at Disney World (Saturday-Monday), flying into Orlando from Boston on Friday and flying out on Tuesday. I went with three other women in my sorority: Julie T. ’22, Kat T. ’22, and Lulu T. ’22. I originally was very hesitant to go on this trip with them, especially because I wasn’t as close with them as they were with each other, but as I’ve lived in the house, I’ve really gotten close with the seniors that live here and wanted to spend a trip with them before they graduated.
Kat is incredibly knowledgeable about all things Disney, having consistently gone to Disney World every year since she was a kid. She was able to book us a really nice resort and set up the tickets and fastpasses02 These are special tickets that you have to reserve in advance that let you use 'lightning lane' for specific rides as opposed to the normal ride. This lightning lane is shorter, faster, and receives priority over the standard ride. You usually only get 3 uses per day but if you pay extra you get unlimited fastpasses. for the trip.
We decided to go hardcore for this trip. On Saturday, we woke up at 5:45 so we could arrive to our first park of the trip, Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is one of the major Disney World parks that is not only an amusement park, but a zoo as well! The park features animals like gorillas, rhinos, elephants, lions, tigers, and more. As an avid animal lover and zoo goer, I was practically bouncing at the thought of seeing animals alongside going on fun rides.
We took the shuttle from our hotel at 6:30 and arrived at the park around 6:45, waiting for rope drop at 7. Normally, it opens at 7:30 but guests staying at certified Disney resorts got the privilege to enter at 7am. We lined up with the hundreds of other dedicated Disney goers to wait for “rope drop”, aka when the park officially opens. I didn’t realize how serious people were about Disney, especially since I had grown up with Disneyland so close by I could just show up on a weekday when the park was relatively empty and only have to wait 10-20 minutes for all the major rides I wanted to go on. But Disney World was serious business.
As soon as rope drop hit, our group spedwalk to Pandora, the part of the park centered around the major movie motion picture with all the blue people, Avatar. (I’ve…never seen it.) We planned it so that at rope drop we went to the most popular ride of the park since rope drop was going to be the only opportunity where the standard line is usually going to be under 40 minutes. Once the park really opened at 8, all standard lines would jump to 60-200 minute wait times for the major rides. Normally, Expedition Everest, an intense rollercoaster about your expedition up Mount Everest, would be the top ride, but it was closed for maintenance during our trip.
We full cleared the park, doing every single ride available to us and seeing every single animal exhibit. I was quite impressed that we were out of the park by 5:30, spending essentially 11 hours at the park. We had walked 11 miles that day. After the park, we went to Disney Springs, an outdoor mall on Disney property, for some dinner. I had these really fucking delicious birria quesadillas that I slurped up in maybe 10 minutes. We walked around to shop and browse the stores, before getting ice cream and brownies at Ghiradelli. We sat and talked for a bit before heading back and sleeping at 1am, prepping for a 7am wake up for the next day.
On Saturday, we were still all a little bit exhausted from Animal Kingdom, so we pushed our wake up time to 7:30 and arrived at Hollywood Studios at 8:24, 6 minutes before normal guest rope drop. We essentially wasted an hour but we were all really tired, with Lulu staying behind at the hotel to finish a lab report that was due later that morning and saying she would catch up with us once she finished. With that, we headed to Toy Story land and went to Toy Story Mania since the wait time was only 20 minutes. Toy Story Mania is a 1v1 competitive game where you ride around and play Toy Story themed mini games. Your points are tallied at the end of the ride and compared against the player next to you. I’m an incredibly competitive person (although I’ve mellowed out at MIT since MIT is incredibly non-competitive) so when it comes to competitive games I am always dedicated to winning. Julie and I sat next to each other for the ride and I did not blink once during the entire ride. Despite this, I only won over Julie by 10k points, which was not super duper high. But I was happy regardless!
We then headed over to one of the major rides for this park, the Rockin’ Rollercoaster. It’s an Aerosmith (yeah I’m just as confused as you are) themed rollercoaster that features a loopty loop and lots of fast twists and turns. I love rollercoasters, but I usually get a little nervous before them. I’m not sure why. I think it’s a fear of vomiting on one. Granted, I’ve never vomited after riding a ride, but I think the prospect of it is enough to give me anxiety. We waited 100 minutes for this ride. We figured that we could wait since Lulu wouldn’t be arriving until around 12. But just as we were next to go on the ride, the ride literally shut down. Like it broke. Which also terrified me because what the fuck what do you do if you’re in the middle of the upside down part and the ride just fucking breaks???
Regardless, we just went somewhere else until Lulu came and then headed to Smuggler’s Run, a Star Wars themed ride where you have to smuggle a delivery to a buyer in the Star Wars universe. Now, I’m not a huge Star Wars nerd, but my cousin Miguel is so I definitely know a few things about Star Wars. And let me tell you, my jaw was on the fucking floor. I was absolutely blown away by how well the Star Wars section of the park was designed. When I saw the Millennium Falcon in person, I think I almost cried. There were like no words to describe how excited I was just to exist not only in this Star Wars section of the park, but just the entire park itself.
We met up with Julie’s boyfriend, Kevin, at Disney World as well and he tagged along with us for some rides and shows, like the Indiana Jones Stunt Showcase, Star Tours, and the Beauty and the Beast theatre show.
Toward the end of the night, it was evident that people were really tired and so we didn’t stay too, too long. Julie, Lulu, and I were able to go back to Rockin’ Rollercoaster thirty minutes before closing. I was extremely anxious to go on it because we had eaten dinner thirty minutes before and I was once again terrified I was going to vomit. I have severe anxiety about vomiting, it’s actually a problem I should look into fixing. I warned Julie and Lulu about this in advance so they could talk me down from it and just rationally explain that I was, in fact, not going to vomit. And of course, I did not. I had a great time on the rollercoaster and absolutely loved it.
The next morning, Kat and I woke up feeling like dogshit. I got sick the Wednesday right before we left for Orlando and thought it would be enough time for me to get better, but I just ended up walking around the park with a slight cough and congestion. I also lost my voice on Saturday so I essentially spent the entire Orlando trip mute, teaching Julie, Lulu, and Kat the small amount of American Sign Language I knew to communicate effectively with them. Kat got heatstroke from the day before and so she was not having a good time and we made the executive decision to nix our trip to Epcot. I was absolutely devastated not to go. I’m not sure why, but I think this trip really did feel magical to me and it felt like such a bummer not to go to probably one of the most magical parks of them all, Epcot. But I just remember it feeling like such an incredible blow when I realized we wouldn’t be able to go. I was sick and I was tired and cranky because I was then also canceling my second portion of the trip, Puerto Rico. All of us were supposed to meet up with the rest of the DPhiE people in Puerto Rico and stay there from Tuesday to Monday. I just felt like all my spring break plans were crumbling, especially because I had so much riding on this trip. The past few weeks before break had been incredibly shitty for me. I quit the leadership team of my sorority because it was running so poorly and I had lost faith in the president to improve the conditions and that had essentially tanked my physical and mental health. The moment I quit the team, my body kind of gave up and I became bed-ridden, coughing and sneezing and feeling ill. It’s so interesting how closely the mind and body are linked, where copious amounts of stress can really deplete your strength, despite there not being any visible physical strain. As a result of all of this, I was really looking forward to a trip that revitalized and rejuvenated my love for, I don’t know, existence. And Disney World really felt like the answer to that.
The day wasn’t all bad though. Once I got through the initial shock of having to cut out Epcot and Puerto Rico from my trip, Kat and I watched the entirety of Fleabag, a famous Amazon Prime show that is like a gut punch and a hug wrapped in 2 seasons. Kat and her family were also able to not only refund us for our Epcot tickets, but still somehow got us free entry for Epcot that day as well as four park hopper tickets for the future. We lounged about until around 8:30 where we felt somewhat okay enough to go to Epcot. I was absolutely BUZZING at this point. We walked into the park right as the Epcot water light show started and I was awestruck. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, watching as lights danced across the water and the Disney music played loudly through the park and fireworks boomed and burst above me and I just. I started crying. I don’t know why, I don’t know what, but I just felt tears well at the corners and start falling.
I felt human again. And I know it’s silly because Disney is incredibly capitalistic and makes a profit off of children’s happiness and joy, but I really couldn’t help myself. This entire trip made me feel like a kid again, something I haven’t felt in a long, long time. But more than that, I was able to be the kid I really, really wanted to be. When I used to go to parks before, I remember being so embarrassed about going on “kiddy” rides or getting excited to take photos with characters. I didn’t allow myself to get excited or scream on rides. I tried so, so hard to maintain this image of myself for some reason. I was so self-conscious of how I would be perceived when I was younger and it dampened the way I went through life, especially at amusement parks.
But here, and now, at the age of 20 years old in Disney World, I was finally allowed to be my full, excitable self. I jumped up and down when I walked into the Disney World parks for the first time. I eagerly ran around in circles pointing things out to Julie, Kat, and Lulu. I talked their ear off about random animal facts I knew. I spewed off Star Wars information to them. When I watched the parade, I stood up and flexed my biceps at Mr. Incredible so he would flex them back. As Goofy passed by us on the water boat, I jumped around and screamed for Goofy. I was happily and carelessly myself. And I realized how much I have grown and how much I’ve been able to come into myself. That I can be unabashedly weird and cringey and loud and annoying and still feel comfortable with myself. That I can excitedly jump and holler for Disney characters and still be completely happy and normal. That I am, for the first time, wholly confident and comfortable with who I am.
And really, I think that comes from MIT. If there’s anything that MIT has taught me in these past three years, it’s that there is no such thing as weird here. Everyone here is incredibly quirky and unafraid to be passionate about whatever they are passionate for. And that kind of culture and mentality has taught me to do just the same, to really love things openly and love things hard. As I fly back on the plane (I’m actually planning on surprising my mom. I told her I was flying back to ‘home’ but she does not realize that home is Los Angeles and not Boston), I can’t stop crying because I really realize how far I’ve come and how much MIT has helped me grow as a person. Where I have friends like Julie, Kat, and Lulu who will accept and deal with my weird excitement over Disney and my crying and my screaming and my poor attempts at ASL.
And I am happy. I am so, so happy. This trip really showed me how far I’ve come and how proud I am of the person I am now. It feels bittersweet, knowing how good this trip is but realizing that now my weeks with the seniors are really limited. They took such good care of me during this trip despite not knowing me as well as they knew each other and I really felt loved and taken care of and it makes me so incredibly sad to know that in just a little under two months, they will be graduating.
So this post is dedicated to them!!! To Lulu, who gets excited to see Lightning McQueen, whose favorite movie is Cars, who took care of me when I was sick and went to the airport with me at 5 in the morning despite not needing to. To Julie, for dealing with my bad jokes and broken sign language and letting me LARP as her and Kevin’s child as we walked around the parks. And to Kat, who put up with my crying and, despite being sick, still went out to Epcot with us and let me see how beatuiful it is, who planned this entire fucking trip from the ground up and really gave me the best Disney experience I’ve ever had, and for introducing me to Fleabag. :) I love these people to death and I will be lost next year without them, but I know they are going to do great things. And they also can’t get rid of me that easily, I will be flying into whatever city they end up in to bother them.
- Epcot is a park at Disney World where each area of the park is a different country to showcase that country's culture and cuisine and also the Disney movies that may take place in that region. back to text ↑
- These are special tickets that you have to reserve in advance that let you use 'lightning lane' for specific rides as opposed to the normal ride. This lightning lane is shorter, faster, and receives priority over the standard ride. You usually only get 3 uses per day but if you pay extra you get unlimited fastpasses. back to text ↑