November 20, 2012

Days of Disney - Life as a College Program Intern

Having a mouse for my first boss is a pretty crazy experience to claim...
  and there are a million reasons why I thank God every day for where I am and how I got here...
but it is a really strange thing to still feel so strongly like I left a piece of my heart in Florida. 
I only lived there 6 months, but those months and memories shaped me so tremendously. 

      Having the amazing opportunity to see my old roommates and then some other Disney friends over fall break stirred up a bunch of feelings inside of me. I would never do another CP internship again, I finished that race and that ship has sailed, but there are days when I miss the Disney perks so very much. Getting off work early because it rained and then running over to Epcot to watch the fireworks. Cream cheese filled pretzels from Tomorrowland. Non-stop opportunities for adventure. I was spoiled in Florida with a constant environment for an exciting life. Even when I went to my grandparents house to get away for a weekend, I was driving through orange groves to get to their house in the backwoods of Florida, complete with afternoons on the porch watching alligators and otters. I can honestly say I never see that combination outside of a zoo in Oklahoma!

But mostly, I miss pictures like the one above. Hanora, Alicia, me, and Brittany. Three girls that I might not ever see again...but we were representing Building 13. Lots of crazy memories. Sonic booms. Alliances against the VWAD. Late night dance parties and little mermaid costumes. 

     One of the hardest things for me to realize is that I was literally one of millions of college kids who have walked the same steps and taken the same pictures. Over 25,000 students have come and gone from Disney in the 14 months since my last day of work. Since I've been gone there have been approximately 12-24 other people who have lived in my apartment, 1,500 firework shows have occurred, 7.5 million bags of the popcorn I made have been sold, and a bazillion new memories have been made. 
I was one in a million when I worked for Disney, and yet, it defines a huge part of my life. My work ethic was drilled into me every time I crawled out of bed exhausted from a 12 hr day of parade vending and drove to work an hour early in time to go to costuming to start another 12 hour day. While taking a Business Ethics test on Friday one of the questions mentioned Disney and their Traditions training. I had to stop in the middle of my test and just smile, because for every other student in the room it was just another question, and yet for me, I can picture the room that Traditions took place in and the first moments when I walked into the building. Other people read the words and I remembered the experience. And yet, I'm one of millions. That's humbling. 

The lessons I learned from my Disney days have defined me. I learned how to treat people, how to have a good face even when you're exhausted and treated poorly, how to work harder than you think you can, how to accept situations you cannot change, and how to enjoy the smallest of moments...because they tend to be the most important ones. I'll never forget the very first night that I went to Magic Kingdom as a Cast Member, before my first day of work. I went with Kirsten, Christina, and Hanora, three girls I barely knew at the time. We rode the carousel and got pixie dusted. I made a wish when I got pixie dusted, because that's what you do when you go to Disney, and it came true. Memories were made, perseverance was discovered, and friendships to last a lifetime were established. 
I accepted that my Disney days were over a long time ago, no need to worry about that. But there are nights when I miss it more than normal, nights when I see pictures of friends visiting Disney and I recognize every single spot they're standing in because I worked in those locations. I get homesick for a life that I don't miss, but I loved. 

November 17, 2012

My Personal Scrooge

I'm not quite sure how I feel about those moments when the mirror gets turned on my heart and God lets me know, "Hey Mandy, still working on you. See that there? Yeah we need some TLC to start happening." 

Let it be known to the world, that my most perfect/kind/loving self...
hasn't figured it all out yet. 

It happened sneakily and unexpectedly. I left for work at 7:30 this morning, exhausted and apprehensive because race day is tomorrow and my routine is out of whack. This week has been full of early mornings and late nights due to lots of different events that I needed to be at in the early/late hours. Typically I am a very spontaneous and relaxed runner, but I also know the routines I need before a half marathon. I know that this distance is best covered when your body is rested, hydrated, and fueled with good food.  A lack of these three things takes a toll on your body race week...and I have been stressing out because this week has not provided ideal conditions to prepare for the 13.1. 

Needless to say, this morning found me tired and stressed at having to wake up early again with a crazy full day ahead of me. The first club member I encountered was incredibly friendly and nice, along with the second. Top notch "magical moments" as we called them at Disney. It's when a guest comes by and reminds you of all the reasons why you work where you work. Then there was a member who came in that acted in such a manner that I had to remember all of my Disney Traditions training and all of the Cast Member standards for how to respond to cranky people. Thank goodness for Disney World and an early exposure to the inconsiderate behavior of people who feel a strong sense of self-entitlement . For the record, never in my wildest dreams did I think that those words would come out my mouth.

I was mad. Probably the most upset that I've ever felt because of the way a member treated me. My tired state may have added to my frustrations, but I was so shocked at the rudeness of this member. He is a notoriously bad member that frustrates the entire staff, but I have never encountered him before this morning. I started reorganizing the perfectly organized clothes and trying to do anything to keep my hands busy because I was so frustrated. I came up with a hundred things I would say to him if I could say them without losing my job. I thought of all of the reasons why he must be a grumpy old man. I speculated and assumed all of the reasons why he must feel such a sense of superiority over everyone else. I was really livid. 

Here is where God got to me. 

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year, everyone who knows me at all knows this fact about me. I've always taken it upon myself to be the Christmas spirit in our house, because I love this season so very much. As I was stuttering and mumbling under my breath about this rude member, the image of Scrooge popped into my head. The lonely, sad, bitter, and greedy miser from the Dickens's novel. I have always felt immense sympathy towards the old man in the book and rejoiced when his heart changes so late in his life. I see God in that story, plain and simple. It's familiar, it's over told  but every once in awhile, "A Christmas Carol" is a startling reminder of how God works in our lives. He takes Scrooges filled with sadness and bitterness, even when the world says, "It's too late for them to ever change", and transforms them into new creations. As I mumbled and huffed under my breath I could so clearly picture this member as a Mr. Scrooge, in need of the freedom from the bitterness and the anger that he must be holding onto, in need of joy in his life. 

God hinted and prodded me, "How are you going to respond to this man when he comes off of the courts and you have to speak to him again?" I wanted to be mad. I wanted to be curt and short with him. I couldn't do it though. I couldn't pray for this man who was playing tennis down on the courts, I couldn't say, "God, I do not want to be nice right now, but I want to please you. And if that means forgiving this man, then okay. Please help me to forgive him as you have forgiven me. I am yours and you have filled me with a joy that passes circumstances, and I pray that he will find this joy in You as well." It's hard to pray for someone and remain angry at them. 

He came upstairs, was a little nicer, closer to civil, with me, and walked out the door. He had a knee brace on and walked slowly down to the sidewalk to the parking lot. I don't know his home. I don't know his story. I don't know who his father was. I don't know how his children feel about their dad. But I know that just as I am a child of God, so is he. The same grace that has saved me has been offered to him. I know that I have done nothing to feel superior to him, to think that I am a better person than he is, to believe that I am more deserving of praise because I treat people differently than he does. God's forgiveness is an equalizer of men. 

I'm learning. Slowly, very slowly, through lessons in a tennis shop. Weird lessons. Strange convictions. But by God's grace, I am learning. 

November 13, 2012

William Memorial Route 66 Run

As the Williams Route 66 Marathon ( sits just a few days away from me, my thoughts are swirling all over the place.
It's been two years since I ran this course.
Two years since my very first half marathon.
I was spoiled from that experience, it really doesn't get any better than Tulsa in November when it comes to street races.
The crowd is encouraging.
The scenery is beautiful.
And the bling? Well...let's just say that the Rt66Run has the best medals around.
Now that I am back in the area and currently injury free...I knew that it was time to run this half marathon again.
But as race day approaches...I'm asking myself a familiar question...

Why do I run?
I ask myself this question periodically. 
Sometimes I ask it on a short fast sprint when my lungs are gasping for oxygen and my muscles are longing for reprieve. 
Sometimes I ask myself the question towards the end of a long stretch of pavement, miles away from where I started and miles away from where I'll finish. 
Why do I run? 
The question has been asked in those moments when I'm looking for inspiration or motivation.
Moments when I am lacing up my shoes and have no desire to battle the elements. 
I ask myself that question as I push my body forward, fighting gravity, fighting my physical boundaries, fighting injuries, fighting wind...I ask myself that question as I fight for the run
I run because I need the fight. 
I need the struggle of the run.
I need to prove something to myself.
I run for sanity.
A long, hard day is best followed by a long, hard run.
I run because there is no feeling like comparing times from one year to the next and seeing how they have improved. 
I need to know that my body can be strong.
Knowing that I trained myself for a sport that I've never been naturally good at has taught me determination and perseverance. 
Running gave me the courage to know that I could do impossible things. 
I see so very literally how that has transferred onto the black and white pages of my life. 
Internships, college, jobs, even skydiving...I faced them with more courage because I already knew that I could do hard things.
When I run, there are so many things that I cannot control.
I cannot control these factors, but I am learning how to work through them. 
And when I succeed?
When the sweat is dripping into my eyes and my muscles are burning?
When I have exhausted every fiber of my being?
I am satisfied. 
Satisfied in knowing that I have given it my all.
Satisfied in knowing that for today, it was enough.
Satisfied in knowing that I have faced the elements and adjusted my stride to match their force. 
Sometimes the elements win, but even then, I walk away desperate to learn how to persevere in the face of adversity. 
Why do I run?
I run because it is more than a physical activity and a quick way to burn calories. 
No, there is so much more to this sport than exercise. 

I run because I was created to run.

Follow my running journey through all of the challenges of injury and the encouragement of a team through these posts below...and stay tuned for my report of running the half at the Route 66 Marathon coming in just a few days!