February 24, 2012

Nostalgic for Disney - One Year

   It's warm and sunny outside. The air is warm with the breath of Spring sneaking into the Oklahoma atmosphere, but winter still has the slightest hold on the little town of Bethany, Oklahoma. One year ago today I moved into 1309. I remember that day so clearly. Waking up early to shower and do my hair, straightening it to the best of my ability, although within a few hours of moving into my apartment in the Florida humidity it was a crazy mess. I wore American Eagle jeans and a baseball t shirt. My name tag said "Mandy" on it, not "Amanda", because for the first time in my life, I was moving to a place where I was a complete, 100% stranger with a chance to go by whatever name I wanted.
   I texted a girl named Katie to find out where my future roommates were standing in line in front of this apartment complex called "Vista Way". I found them and we had our nervous introductions, "Hi, I'm Katie, this is Jessica, Stevana, Hanora, and Nicole." Within the hour we found out that we couldn't all live with each other because we were on different programs, so three of us took off to 1309 while the other three girls went to the Chattham apartments. In 1309 me, Katie, and Hanora met the other three girls who we would be living with, Jenni, Christy, and Kirsten. That was the beginning of our crazy adventures.
   I remember my mom driving away that day. It was hurried and rushed, just a brief hug in the car, a look in her eyes, realizing that my last tie to childhood, the last person who knew me better than anyone else in the world was a few seconds from driving away and letting me figure out my place in the world. But the seconds passed and my new roommates were waiting for me to go to our first meeting, so my mom and I said goodbye, and the car door clicked shut.
   Sitting on this plastic chair in a freshman apartment suite a few thousand miles away from my life in Orlando, one year later, is so very, very, bittersweet. This past week I've found myself fingering my Disney name tag, tracing the letters out and thinking about who I am and where I've been. I've caught myself telling all of my friends, "One year ago today I left Oklahoma. One year ago today I moved into my apartment. One year ago today..." I keep saying these things because even though that part of my story is finished, it was so huge in my life. Those six months felt like 5 years of living crammed into every moment.
   The sky looked like Florida yesterday. It looked the way the sky looked on a day last April, when the forecast was thunderstorms for the whole day, so by some chance of luck I got an early release from work and my 12 hour shift was shortened to 4 hours. I drove home via the backroads that day, past the lake that I liked to run around, past the stucco houses that fit right in next to the palm trees and green mondo grass, I drove home to my run down, needed a lot of repair, home sweet home, apartment. Later that night the storms cleared up and I went over to Epcot with some friends to watch Illuminations. Some days, especially days like today, I really miss being able to tell stories like that.
   I remember the frustrations of living in Florida. The first time my parents came to visit I was still the new kid on the block with the closing shifts, and I was so frustrated to not be able to spend time with my family because I was working till 4 am. I remember the nights when there were parties going on that I was invited to, and I chose to go run at the gym as an excuse to avoid the alcohol that would be all around me. I remember feeling helpless as my sister went through a hard semester and I wasn't there to cheer her up and talk to her face to face instead of through a Skype screen. Most especially, if there is one constant event that I can remember frustrating me more than anything else, it was the very constant process of saying goodbye. The goodbye's killed me again and again. Goodbye's to CP's whose programs were over. Goodbyes to my family before they caught their flights home and I went to go clock into another shift. Goodbyes to people who I instantly connected with, people who I only had a week or two to get to know them before they walked away and I knew that I would never see their faces again. The constant goodbyes were the hardest thing for my heart to deal with, but loving people, getting to hear stories, shaking hands with the world every day, man it was worth it all.
   A year can change a life. A year ago today, I couldn't picture the next week, nonetheless imagine in my wildest dreams what I would be doing on February 21, 2012. A year ago, I didn't have a crazy story to call my own. I didn't have a thousand memories circled around a life living at Disney World. A year ago today, I was standing on the edge of adventure, wondering what my life would look like over the next few months. It was good. It was hard. It was life changing. But even better than all of that is the fact that Disney gave me the courage to chase after dreams. To do impossible things. To keep going through life looking for adventure. That's something that I'll carry with me for a long time. A year ago, I hadn't figured that out yet, but now? Well, now there are new adventures to keep finding...new memories to make. Because you never know what could happen in the next year. :)