We took a last minute trip to Disneyworld in December, a chance for family bonding and fun. This was my first trip to Disneyworld and I didn’t know what to expect. It was like an initiation. I knew nothing about parades, fireworks, character dining, fast passes and all these little ins and outs that make up the Disney experience. But I learned fast.
Going to Disneyworld isn’t just your normal theme park experience, it’s a celebration. I love people watching and seeing the groups of people there - families, wearing matching t-shirts and kids dressed up in costume - little girls in their princess dresses, and tiaras and hairpieces - boys in goofy hats or star wars t-shirts, carrying their stuffed ewoks.
I was surprised to see adults joining in too. Women wearing Minnie Mouse ears stood out to me. There were all sorts of designs and colors - simple black ears with red bows, stripes, polka dots, animal prints, sequins, feathers, roses, - the Minnie Mouse ears were practically an art form.
The women who were wearing the Minnie Mouse ears seemed to be having the most fun - whether they really were or not - wearing those ears was a message that screamed “I’m happy to be here! I’m here to have fun! I’m not afraid to let my inner child out and let everyone else see it!”
I was envious of these women and their bold declaration. I wasn’t wearing Minnie Mouse ears, but I easily could if I wanted to. They were around the corner in every gift shop, only $20 away. But the thought of wearing them was daunting. It didn’t feel like “me” - to put myself out there, to be exuberantly childish and playful, to invite attention or perhaps judgment, to outwardly wear celebration and joy, to go big.
So the next morning before we set out, I bought a pair that felt most appealing - silver sequined Minnie Mouse ears. My husband was surprised to see me put them on - as surprised as I was - and my son was delighted and wanted to wear them himself.
I felt silly, but those ears changed me. Yes, that headband was uncomfortable, but when I was wearing the ears I had a better time, a better day. Those ears were a declaration that I was here to have fun, a reminder to myself.
Because you see, I’m not really a theme park person - the noise, the crowds, the overstimulation, the long lines, the endless gift shops, the overpriced fast food - that can turn me into a serious grouch, fast. I’d much rather be sitting in a cafe sipping a latte and writing in my journal in peace and quiet. It’s easy to be cynical in a theme park, to be judgmental, to be above it all.
But I was here. We decided to go to Disneyworld - to have fun as a family. And I wanted to have fun - not just for myself, but also for my husband and my son.
Putting on those ears was an outward declaration of the woman I wanted to be - lighthearted, playful, flexible, optimistic - even if I didn’t feel like her yet. Putting on those ears, for me, wasn't totally natural, it was a deliberate choice.
It’s made me think about how I move through my life when I’m not at Disneyworld. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Do I want to sit on the sidelines? Do I want to avoid attention? Am I afraid of being myself out loud? Am I afraid to be too exuberant, to be too happy, too playful?
How can I go through life wearing my Minnie Mouse ears? How can I be the woman I want to be, how can I choose her, even if I don’t always feel like her yet?
Disneyworld is a rare experience, a world of staged fantasy, but now that I'm back in the "real world" I want to hang on to what I learned and choose happiness everyday, even when it doesn't come naturally to me.