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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

see ya real soon

It's time to say goodbye to all our company... for now.  Here are my final, complete thoughts on everything that has transpired in the past few days.

Before I start this post, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the devastating impact that Coronavirus has had all across the world.  There are millions of people across the globe who have lost jobs, apartments, family members, and friends to this pandemic.  My heart is fully with the millions of people who have lost more than I have during this time.  My inbox is open on all of my social media platforms for anyone dealing with grief and anxiety during this crazy time, and my hope is that by sharing my personal story here on tinkerkait, it will help others feel less alone as we try to return to "normal" in wake of these extraordinarily hard times.


As I am sure everyone has heard by now, all of the Walt Disney Parks across the globe have closed their gates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We don't know how long the Parks will be closed, but in addition to closing the Parks and Resort Hotels here in Orlando, Disney has decided to suspend the Spring 2020 Disney College Program and sent all of us home this week.

On Thursday, Disney announced they would be closing the Parks at Walt Disney World Resort.  It wasn't until Saturday that Disney told us that the Disney College Program was being suspended as well.  On Saturday, we received an email stating that our Program would be marked as "completed," and that we would have to move out of Housing by Wednesday morning at 11 AM-- a turnaround time of about 4 days.

My original plan was to fly back on Wednesday.  However, given how rapidly changes have been developing in the country, I panicked at the last minute and ended up hitching a ride back to NJ with my friend/guardian angel Hannah on Monday evening.  I am now back home with my family.  I am healthy, safe, and self-isolating, hopefully the same way the rest of you are.

I will start off by saying that while I never in a million years imagined anything like this happening, I fully understand why our Program had to come to an end.  I believe that this decision was out of Disney's hands and that it was made in everyone's best interest.  I commend the Programs team AND my local leadership for all of their hard work this past week in making sure we were all taken care of before we left.  To clear up some quick questions: our rent has been waived, we are being paid a lump sum on Thursday that equals what we would have made for the rest of March.  Programs has been working with those of us needing special accommodations to make sure that we are able to get home safely.  We have been given endless support by our fellow Cast during this period, and I am incredible thankful for any CM who went out of their way to make every CP feel like royalty on our last day in the Parks this past Sunday.  Through this horrible ordeal, all of us on the Program saw that we weren't just some disposable interns who get the short end of the casting stick: we are the ones who put in the most work with the biggest smile on our faces, we are the ones who breathe new energy into the Parks, and we are so very loved by all of you.  Thank you to all of you FT/PT/Seasonal CMs who showed your love this past week.  I want to give a big shout out to Programs Recruiter Christy and our fearless Walt Disney World President Josh D'Amaro, who have been on the front lines during this process and making sure all of us CPs felt as loved and safe as we possibly could in a time like this.

As for myself, as for right now: I don't know if the Program being "suspended" means I will be able to return as a Character Attendant.  Disney sent out a survey a few days ago where anyone who would want to "return to the Program" could mark their interest.  We don't know if that means we'll be coming back to finish Spring/Spring Advantage 2020 once the Parks open back up or if we'll just be kept in higher consideration for future seasons.  It will all depend on when the Parks open again and what the current needs for labor are when they do reopen.

In my last post, I mentioned that being a Character Attendant was challenging me, and that I was a little unsure about how I fit into my role and what my future here would look like.  But since the day I made that post, my life has been nothing short of perfect.  I worked the most incredible shifts with the most incredible Cast.  My family surprised me while I was working at Princess Fairytale Hall and after an emotional reunion, we got to spend a magical week together.  I saw the Flower & Garden Festival and rode Rise of the Resistance.  I worked all of the shifts I said I really wanted to work this Program in a really short time period.  Now that I was fully settled in and comfortable, everything was falling perfectly into line.  

My dream job was everything I wanted it to be for the short time I had it.  I would walk into base with a smile from ear-to-ear every morning, and it would be there until I clocked out at the end of every night.  I worked with a team of people who loved me and wanted me to succeed.  I left every single shift with a sense of fulfillment.  My heart was full knowing that I was working hard, doing the best I could, making friends within my Cast, and making magic for guests.  I was looking forward to making a post about how maybe I wouldn't just be here for seven months, that I may extend into January and then try to go full-time with the Company.  I swore I had found my calling in life.  In my mind, I started imagining a life where I started as a Character Attendant, then became a Captain, then became a Leader.  I was ready to build a life-long career with Disney Parks Entertainment.

Many of you have asked about the possibility of me returning to the Parks PT/FT if my Program doesn't continue after this.  It's something that I have considered!  My only issue is that I would have to work 500% harder to get back into Entertainment, especially full-time.  Disney has had an external hiring freeze on Character Attendants (and other roles in the Entertainment department) for a few years.  Doing the DCP is the only way to jump right into being an Attendant, which is why I did this second CP instead of applying straight for PT/FT and making the permanent move.  That means I would have to start in a different branch of the Company, wait six months, and then put myself on a transfer list for Character Attendant, which I could be on for a very long time.  For me, it just doesn't seem viable to move down to Orlando and work full-time in a role I don't want so that I could maybe one day possibly be an Attendant again.

At the end of the day, the need for Character Attendants is so low at WDW that I knew it would even be a stretch to go FT/PT or even Seasonal after my Program ended-- which is why it is so heartbreaking that this job has been taken away from me with no word on if I can come back.  I was really looking forward to the next six months and all of the magic I still had left to make.

Saying goodbye to all of the friends I made here on such short notice was extremely difficult.  I had to leave the apartment on extremely short notice and saying goodbye to my incredible housemates was by and large the hardest goodbye I've ever made in my life.  Brianna, Halley, Olivia, Rachael, Deisha, and Michayla were simply the funniest and kindest people I've ever met in my life and I am certainly going to miss coming home to Chatham 07201.  My entire heart belongs to my fellow Entertainment Cast, from my core training group buddies to the Captains who helped me learn every location.  I will remember all of the friends I made here fondly for the rest of my life, and I can't wait to see you guys again in the future.


I have to admit that I was not totally blindsided by the news.  On Friday night, where one of my coworkers mentioned that she heard from a union worker that the Program students would all be sent home.  At first, I didn't believe her.  It was just a rumor, we had to listen to what was on the HUB.  And why would Disney send us home if the Resort would only be closed for two weeks?

I woke up the next morning with a pit in my stomach.  Suddenly, I had a feeling this would probably be the end, and I thought to myself, I should go to Epcot today.  It's my favorite Park, and if this was really going to be the end of the Program, I wanted to say goodbye.  I put on my favorite outfit and got on the next bus over there.  I got on Spaceship Earth, I bought the Spike the Bee sipper, and I did one last lap around the World Showcase.  Once I got to France, I realized that I really hadn't done much at all that day-- I didn't meet any characters or see any shows, and I had only done one ride.  Still, I was hot, I was tired, I was ready to head back to the apartment.  I asked myself if I was sure I wanted to go home knowing I might not be back in Epcot for a while, and that's when I realized I had done almost everything I wanted to do this Program.

I saw Galaxy's Edge, had a Blue Bantha and rode Rise of the Resistance.  I went on a cast preview for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway and fell in love with Chuuby.  I had the Frushi at Flower & Garden and got my little orange bird sipper.  I sailed along on the Skyliner, I did the cha-cha slide at my Housing welcome event, and lived every moment here to the fullest.  Above all: I made magic in my dream role, and it was everything I wanted it to be and so much more.  I babysat the Step Sisters, helped the Country Bears give mustard packets to guests, twirled napkins with the fab five at Chef Mickey's, roasted marshmallows with Chip & Dale, kept the castle prepared for Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire, and so much more.  There was not a lot I didn't do this past month.  It's enough to make me think that despite my grief, this is how my Program was meant to end: while I was at my happiest and my heart was full of love.  A perfect month, a perfect Program, a perfect memory to look back on.  

This ordeal really, really, really, really, really, really, really sucks.  But if Disney does not bring me back, I will eventually have to make peace with this situation.  I may not ever truly be at peace with how things ended so abruptly, I may not ever think this was "fair," I may not ever stop crying about what my life could have been if I could have continued my career journey with Disney Parks Entertainment.  But I will eventually find my peace in knowing that this past month has been the best of my life.


For those of you who want to know what is next for me:

I will be taking things day by day for the next few weeks.  I am confident that Disney will soon reach out to all of us who were supposed to complete Spring/Spring Advantage 2020, with more updated and clear information on whether or not we will be able to return.  As soon as I get word from Disney, I will update this blog. 

During this period of self-isolation, I will continue to update tinkerkait with content!  I had so many posts I wanted to make that I can't wait to share with you all now that I have some free time on my hands.

I have had so many of you reach out to me since this process began with nothing but love, positivity, and encouragement.  You have all shared some much-needed pixie dust in my life during one of my darkest moments, and with your love, I am confident that I will get through this.  Thank you dearly for everything.

See ya real soon!


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