“Oh, you’re going to Disneyland again?” I’ve been asked with a smirk.
Or there are the conversations that have ground to a halt when I said I saw Frozen before most of my co-workers who have kids.
Admitting I’m a Disney fan as a 29-year-old gets its fair share of raised eyebrows. Though nerdy fandoms have come a long way, this one still gets treated with a spoonful of judgment.
All of that is to say, you may not understand where I’m coming from with this particular post. BUT. We all have our things–be it fantasy football, Broadway, glamping–that bring us happiness. Disneyland was mine for a brief, burning moment.
I would be lying if I said, after we were getting serious about moving to California, that I wasn’t excited to be living within an hour of a Disney park. And when I was alone in California for several weeks after arriving, Disneyland, with all of its purposeful pokes at the nostalgic part of my brain, provided me with an immediate sense of comfort when I knew nobody else or the world outside the gates just seemed like too much.
Moving to a new place, thousands of miles from everything and everyone I knew, was thrilling but also a bit terrifying. Trying to re-establish yourself, threading a web of friends, searching hopelessly for any good pizza anywhere in California, etc., is both a wake-up call and incredibly exhausting.
Disneyland helped mitigate that constant uneasiness I felt from not having a sense of “home.”
Of course I understand why some people looked down their noses when I said, “I’m going to Disneyland!” instead of checking out, say, a historical landmark. Disneyland isn’t authentic! it’s a manufactured place trying to convince you that you need a $100 glitter-infused makeover! But that’s kinda the point–I didn’t want reality. At first it was my place to escape from loneliness; later it shifted to a place to escape the ever-scarier threats of going broke (we were way too optimistic and bought our annual passes before Lance got a job. Whoops.)
Disneyland was my extracurricular activity, where I was able to meet like-minded nerds and begin to call them friends. For somebody who’s struggled my whole life to overcome shyness and self-doubt in social settings, feeling that sense of, “Hey, I belong here,” was immensely meaningful to me. Disneyland gave me that opportunity to feel like I was part of a community.
Honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done without Disneyland during our darkest days in California. Without it, we wouldn’t have met the friends we made. Without it, I think I might’ve been crushed, Giles Corey-style, under the stress of everything going on around me.
Disneyland, and by extension, all of the people we met through the crazy, passionate community that orbits it, gave us a justification to moving to California when we had little else in which to pin all this effort spent and money wasted.
Yes, Disneyland’s expensive, and crowded, and I know I went too often and Instagrammed about it excessively. But I’m okay with it. That experience got me through a rough time and I’m grateful for it.