This past year has been the most amazing year I could have asked for. I was certain that after working for the Mouse for an entire straight year I would be sick of it and I would be ready to go home, but the truth it I’m a mess. In the past week I’ve bought two unnecessary souvenir things (and I never buy the souvenir things. Oh, that drink comes in a souvenir cup? Can I get it cheaper in a regular cup? Thanks) and I sacrificed a lot of sleep to see my favorite shows three nights in a row. I don’t give up sleep for anything.

I’ve had four different jobs in the past year here at Disney. People tend to move around a lot, but certainly not that quickly. In most cases, you can’t move around quite that quickly. But somehow I did. I started my journey seasonally at Blizzard Beach, working in quick service food and beverage. I thought I would hate it, but truthfully it was wonderful. I still remember my first trainer telling me, “Congratulations! You’ve won the cast member lottery. You have one of the best jobs.” And as far as food service goes, he was certainly right. I thought I wanted to work in Magic Kingdom, but if I had been placed in Magic Kingdom food and beverage I probably would have hated it. Wait, that’s a lie. I doubt I could have hated it. But I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much as I enjoyed Blizzard Beach.

And after three summers at Blizzard, I decided that I didn’t want to leave Disney and get a real job just yet, so I applied for the college program. A lot of people seemed confused by this change. They asked, “Why would you choose to do the college program when you already work here? Isn’t that going backwards?” Truthfully, in some ways it was. But at the same time, going from being seasonal to full time is nearly impossible. At least right away. Disney doesn’t give full time positions easily. But by doing the college program, I was essentially guaranteed acceptance (because I was already a cast member with a good record) and they would work me at full time hours. Mostly. It was a win-win. And so I left behind my beloved water parks and entered the big leagues: Magic Kingdom Parade Audience Control. People thought I was crazy for doing it. “You’ll hate it,” they told me. “It’s a miserable job.” They were all wrong. PAC was some of the most fun I’ve ever had, and I loved (almost) every minute. Yes, I got yelled at. Yes, people used their strollers as battering rams against my shins. Yes, I got ignored. Yes, I had to break up a fight, but only once. And you know what else? I was part of a huge, tight-knit team that got paid to talk to people and make magic. The yelling only constituted about 10% of my day. The rest was pure magic.

My College Program was short, only 4 months. I had one of the latest start dates, September 4th, and then it was all over in January. But in January I had another Disney job lined up: a Professional Internship with the Youth Education Series. I got paid to bring field trips of kids through the parks and teach them things like roller coaster physics, behind the scenes secrets, and life lessons about the greater world around them. It was literally the best job in the world. I can’t imagine anything better than YES. And through YES I made some of the most amazing friends I could ask for.

But all good things come to an end, and as my internship was ending I knew I needed somewhere else to go. I hadn’t heard back from graduate school yet, and my life felt like I was in limbo. So I applied for another Disney job, and accepted a part-time position with Children’s Activities in the resorts. Again, I truly lucked out with jobs. I had one of the most coveted front line roles. I got paid to play with children.

For better or worse, I was soon contacted with an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had been accepted to graduate school. It was a dream come true. But with this new dream in hand, I had to abandon my old dream. And with great sadness, I gave Disney my notice.

As I have documented, my last week at Disney was sad but filled with as much Disney magic as I could squeeze into those short days. I chose my last ride in each park (Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios, Spaceship Earth in Epcot, and Peter Pan in Magic Kingdom) and a last “meal” in each park (apple crisp a-la-mode in Hollywood Studios, fish and chips, Victoria sponge cake, and a Pimms in the UK in Epcot, and a kitchen sink in Magic Kingdom). I watched Fantasmic, Illuminations, and Wishes with some of my dearest Disney friends. And I took plenty of time to enjoy what would probably be my last time in the parks by myself doing nothing, because from now on I will probably either be accompanied by cast member friends or family. I will definitely miss going to the parks alone.

There are a lot of things I will miss about Disney. Before Disney I didn’t really know much or care about Walt Disney, but now just hearing a clip of his voice is enough to make me tear up. Disney has changed the way I view business, and honestly the entire world. I have learned so much about people, and about myself. Each location has been unique, with wonderful people and new challenges. I have learned to say “Ski ya real soon,” “Have a magical day,” “Tell me more,” and finally “Welcome home.” I have learned so many different skills, from handling cash to managing groups of people with very different attitudes. And most importantly, I have learned the value of hard work and good customer service.

Thank you Mickey. It’s not goodbye, it’s simply “See ya real soon!”