Every time I look at pictures of Disneyland days, I cry. I honestly thought that once I left and came back home, my life there would fade to a distant memory, that it would become ‘something cool I did back when I was in college’. But it hasn’t. It’s been 6 months since I’ve left Anaheim, since I’ve left my roommates, since I’ve left my apartment, since I’ve left the happiest place on earth and it’s not getting any easier. Truth be told, I miss one particular roommate so much that every time I wear the leather bracelet she bought me for Christmas, I tear up. Every time I glance down at my wrist I feel a compelling need to tell someone about Katie. In fact, I once had a customer at PetSmart, a young girl maybe 15, who was wearing one identical to mine (of course it said her name instead). I excitedly asked her if she got it at Disneyland and she said yes with a big smile. I proceeded to point to mine and started to explain that my roommate, from when I worked at Disneyland, bought it for me only to realize that I wasn’t actually wearing it that day.
While the DCP experience was incredible, there were some parts that weren’t so great. I’m not going to butter up my experience and make it sound like an absolute and complete dream because parts of it were not. I worked. A lot. So much in fact that I developed Plantar Fasciitis, an extremely painful tightening of the muscles in the arch of my feet. The very second I sat my feet on the ground in the morning (without even standing up) my feet ached in pain. I walked and walked and walked so much, literally all day long, and my feet were not used it at all! From 8 am until I got home at night (late at night if I went to Disneyland after work, which I almost always did). Walking to the bus stop four blocks away, walking from the city bus to the security check point, from there to the backstage tram, from the tram drop off to clock in behind my attractions and then finally to my attractions. Thankfully, Disney provides gel mats to stand on at every safety position, so once at work, my feet were saying hallelujah. But the first days of training were an absolute nightmare, feet speaking.
When Kylie and I went to buy work shoes, we both chose different shoes based on what we thought would be comfortable. I chose WRONG. The shoes I chose were slightly to large which meant that the end of the shoes rubbed the back of my feet raw. Not only that, the actual shoes were not comfortable in the least. The ‘gel cores’ were extremely hard and had no ‘give’ for my bruised, tired pathetic feet. They hurt SO BADLY, that, I honestly shouldn’t admit to this but…..almost all of my training I didn’t hear a word of. In all truth, it was all I could do to stand up straight. I made myself stand on my tip toes and I also balance precariously on the side of my feet (so the soles weren’t touching the ground) to help alleviate the pain. It helped for a few seconds. I remember I was almost okay when I was standing still, but when he announced we were going to walk somewhere else (which was very very often) I wanted to sit down and c-r-y.
Do not make the same mistake I did. Buy good shoes before you work at Disneyland! It was an absolutely miserable week for me, and extremely dangerous and irresponsible since I could not pay attention to safety spiels and disaster preparedness from the pain. After my first paycheck I was able to beg a ride from my wonderful roommate Kylie to return the shoes to get much better ones and a pair of Dr. Scholls insoles. Strangely, my feet still killed me BUT only when I was barefoot. If I wore shoes, I was absolutely fine.
Kylie, one of my roommates I mentioned before, had the same attractions as I did and we lived together (obviously). It is very very rare to have a roommate that shares the same position as you (even to share the same field as you like attractions), particularly since we were the only two of the three hundred who ran those attractions! We also were the same height, 4 ’11, and had the same curvy-chubby-large hipped body type. It was truly fantastic to not only enjoy the perks of commuting to work together and being able to share each others costumes (which we did quite often, especially coats) but to also have someone who always understood what I was talking about when I came home after a long day at Jelly. We shared funny/sad stories, new jokes to spiel to the guests, the potluck dishes we brought to work, friendly criticism, books (we both loved to read) and the same amazing cast member friends. We even helped each other study for our attraction assessments, which was an immense help. I really can’t imagine how my Disney experience would have been without Kylie and me always being the others shadow. I remember several times when the cast members we worked got us confused with each other or would call us by the wrong name. I also had several people tell me that I was beginning to talk like her! Kylie used to say we were actually the same person.
I’m proud of myself for ‘working my way up’ since my first teenage job of chopping cotton. I’ve climbed the job ladder going from fast food, to private coffee shop, to taking tickets at a swap meet to Disneyland. A month before my internship had ended I applied for a couple jobs back home, secretly terrified I wouldn’t be able to find work once I got back. I remember the economy and the struggle to find work when I left. Amazingly, the wonderful folks at our towns not-opened-yet Petsmart saved a position for me and hired me immediately. Now I work here passionately putting my heart and soul into everything I do, feeling at the end of the day like it doesn’t really matter, because I’m not really making a difference. At least not like it did when I worked at Disneyland. Because my problem has been and always will be caring to much. I can’t do something half heartedly. It’s either all or nothing. I can’t understand the concept of doing something for a living and not actually caring about it. There’s no such thing as a job. I don’t mean necessarily loving what you do, I mean putting all you’ve got into it and not saying afterwards that you could have done a lot better. I’m confident that I did my best after every encounter I have with a pet parent. Just like at Disneyland, the valuable skills I picked up transferred over to not only this new job but also my life in general. I never tell anyone ‘I don’t know’; I always find a book or find another employee who does know. I also genuinely care when someone cares to share with me how they’ve struggled after losing their family dog of 14 years.
In fact, there is one gentleman who, after coming in within the first couple of days after we opened, shared with me his little long-haired Dachshund’s name (Tessa) and explained that his wife had just died and that he and chose Tessa from the Animal Shelter to help keep him company in his big, now lonely, house. This story truly crushed me and nearly made me cry when I saw the tears in his eyes after he utter the word ‘died’ and how much hurt he must have been feeling to share a story like that with me, a simple cashier. He now brings her in biweekly and gets her groomed, perfumed, and shops for her until she’s done in the salon. He speaks of her with sheer delight when I ask about her and never fails to bring her by the register on his way out to let me see how pretty she is and pet her. The last time I saw this gentleman, I asked how Tessa was, and after he told me, he patted my arm and said, ‘You know, I shared with you the first time I came here that my wife had died and that I had adopted Tessa and you make a point to not only ask me how she’s doing but remember her name! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your kindness.’ He was nearly crying as he emotionally said this, and it was all I could do to keep myself composed. Him letting me know how much of a difference I made in his life, keeps me believing that working at Petsmart isn’t just a job like some people believe but that it’s an experience, somewhere exciting, a place for memories, a place to battle fish tank issues, to get advice, to tackle problems, to be consoled, to be cheered for. I take pride in being ‘just a cashier’ because experiences like this make me feel like I matter, like I have a purpose. It’s amazing how two people that come from different walks of life can uplift and encourage each other, with very little effort. So yes, I care immensely for people and I’m grateful to work at Petsmart. Even though I miss Anaheim and even though Petsmart isn’t as prestigious or as ‘cool’ as Disneyland, what I do is still important. To someone.