You asked, multiple times, so I figured it’s time to answer. I’m coming clean: the truth about Disney.
Note: I worked for Disney two times. This piece is written based on ONLY the second time I worked there, summer of 2017.
I didn’t debate writing this but I did debate posting it out of fear for what people will think or say. Or maybe no one will even read it. But, as a writer I have to write my truth and live my truth. So here it is, the unedited (there will be things in here that may be, as they say, TMI) truth about what happened to me in Disney:
The other day a friend texted me out of the blue and said “Are you a lot happier now that you don’t work for Disney?” She is currently working for the company so I thought for a while about how to respond because I would never want to ruin something that someone else loves based on my own bad experience.
That being said, I finally decided on “Not to sound like a jackass, but yeah. Leaving the company was the best decision I’ve ever made, I’m thriving without it.”
This lit some sort of fire under my ass and inspired me to write my story.
I do mean to sound like a jackass, actually. I do mean to flaunt how much better I’m doing since leaving that toxic environment. That place did things that destroyed parts of me and I’m still affected by it today.
When I got to Florida, I knew things weren’t right. I was constantly anxious, irritated, and had no appetite. I knew in my heart and in the back of my mind that I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision. I refused to admit it though, to my mom who traveled with me to move me down, and even to myself.
Then, I went through Traditions, which is a training class that all employees have to go through, and I stepped into Magic Kingdom for the first time after so long. The place that my parents dragged me out of kicking and screaming at the end of my first program two years ago. I had longed to be back there and I finally was. I finally felt a sense of relief that maybe I am in the right place.
Then I got my work schedule, six a.m. shifts all across the board. But I had no car, and the buses don’t start running until 6:36 a.m. So, I made a phone call to the bus station. They have a bus that picks up all Cast who have to work the early shift at any location, as long as I am at the bus stop by 4 a.m. This was obviously not the ideal situation, but I was determined to make it work.
Okay, so, strap yourselves in because this is where the fun begins.
There was an entire 2 paragraphs in here about my boyfriend at the time. I decided to remove it for the privacy of the person and the fact that it is not entirely relevant in order for you to understand and feel the full story. Basically there was a phone call after I had a 14 hour shift that started with “Mel, I’m breaking up with you”, I can still hear the words ringing in my head, and ended with me on the floor crying in my room.
At this point in time, a girl needs her friends. But, because my hours were so unbelievably awful, I never really saw my roommates. They weren’t even sure if I lived there most of the time. So, alone, on the floor in my gross, lived-in apartment, I struggled to hold myself together because one of the things that was consistent in my life for a while was just taken away from me. Strike 1.
I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to keep myself distracted. I was actually thankful for my shitty job at this point because it was something to do that would keep me busy and wouldn’t allow me to check my phone.
Days were always hectic working in Quick Service Food and Beverage at a resort. You do at least a million different jobs in one day. I was on fryers this particular day, and anyone who knows me knows that I hate fryers. I’m already weak in the arms, and the fryer baskets get pretty heavy when you are lifting them out of the grease. Not to mention the arm motion to dump out the contents into the transport bin is extremely awkward. So, sometimes I drop things, or contents fall out of the basket onto the floor. Or, in this case, one fell back into the grease and the grease splashed right up into my eye. Which resulted in me standing there in the hot kitchen with a line of angry, hungry guests, trying to blink the hot grease out of my contact and my burning eye. This would be a great time to use the eye wash station about a hundred feet to my left, but I was “needed” and had to deal with it. Strike 2.
I tried to find happiness in the Happiest Place on Earth. I went to the parks every time I could. But, I remember texting my roommate, one of my closest friends, “Magic Kingdom just isn’t fun anymore and I don’t know why”.
Not long after I texted her I was headed towards the exit and spotted Chip and Dale at the front of Magic Kingdom. I had not met Chip and Dale since probably the first time that I was ever in Disney World so, I got in line. I was greeted with hugs and the munks fighting over who would get to hold my hand. They made sure to get a picture with me in the middle, it was nice to smile.
This is where I found some strength. I never realized the power of hugs, mostly because I really just don’t like to be touched. Disney characters are actually trained on how to hug guests. They are trained not to let go until the guest does, because you never know how much a person needs one. And I needed all of the hugs I could get.
Every chance I got I was going to the parks by myself just to meet the characters. [I really enjoyed going alone. Everyone calls you princess, waves, smiles, and I got a ton of free stuff and experienced so many magical moments.] I was using Fast Passes on meet and greets when most people just used them on rides. I loved talking to the characters and getting hugs because I never really had anyone else to talk to based on my work schedule.
I tried and hoped for things to get better, in my personal life and at work, I tried to stay positive, but things didn’t get better and I couldn’t stay positive any longer. I wasn’t the only one having issues at work, a lot of people were and a lot of people were also making bets on how long most of us would last. A few went to HR, but we were literally told that the head manager at our location had a ton of connections and if we went to HR she would find out and we would be screwed. Threatened to keep our mouths shut? Strike 3.
I have personally never been the type of person who wanted to go to therapy. But at this point, I had nowhere else to turn. I looked up the number for help and called and made myself an appointment. This was a company who had a contract with Disney but were not Disney employees, so nothing I said could go back to the company. It was a safe place to talk.
Not even five minutes into the first session I already started to feel better. My counselor was able to identify my struggles right away and gave me insight on things that I would have never even thought about. She gave me a perspective on things that no one had been able to give me. We continued our sessions focusing on healthy relationships, which I apparently have never been in, and work related issues.
Things did not exactly get better. I was still working shitty hours and constantly being force extended without being told. I would work 12 days in a row with no day off, sleep was limited, and the work was exhausting. There were multiple shifts with a manager who did not like me, would move me from my assigned position and leave me to restock the coolers ALL. DAMN. DAY. The coolers are quite literally of freezing temperature and the boxes of beer, bottles of wine, bottles of drinks, which needed to be constantly stocked were way too heavy for my weak arms to handle. This is a job that had to be done and it just sucked that I’m the one who had to do it.