Blonde: Fear and self-loathing in Disney World

Over break, I was in the place where dreams come true.

No, not Las Vegas.

In the morning I was in a “casita” in Mexico; at night I was on a rock’n’roller coaster with Aerosmith. And then I went to China.

This was my trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. In the car on the drive back to Fort Lauderdale, my mom and I counted the number times we’ve been to Disney, and decided on the conservative estimate of 25. The great thing about Disney, though, is that no matter how many times you visit, you never have the same experience twice.

The first morning we were there, we went to Hollywood Studios — a park with all the “glitz and glamour of the Hollywood Heydays from the 1930s and 1940s.” It’s also home to one of my favorite Disney rides, The Tower of Terror, from “The Twilight Zone.”

So it’s around 4 p.m., we’ve been fighting off women in strollers for space on the sidewalk for about seven hours, we’re tired, we want ice cream, but we decide that we can’t leave the park without doing (you don’t “ride” things in Disney, you “do” them) the Tower of Terror.

After about 50 minutes of standing around, we were drawing close to the front of the line. Then, out of nowhere, the line forked in two.

“Left or right?” my sister Lauren casually asked, as if this decision were NBD.

BD, INDEED. What if we go to the left and when it’s our turn to board, that side breaks down? What if the right moves too slowly and we miss our bus back to the hotel? If those people that were behind us chose the other side and get on before us, I’ll strangle them with their stupid, fugly fanny packs.

I felt anxious, and even more than that, frustrated. Who cares? The lines were comparable in length. We ended up going to the left (completely out of character for me — I always go to the right), and I spent the ten minutes it took us to move to the front checking to see if it would have been a better decision to go to the right. I’d entered a Twilight Zone of my own, one where I was immobilized by the fear of making wrong decisions.

And by wrong decisions, I don’t even mean necessarily bad decisions. I mean ones that aren’t the best possible. Example: I walk into the bathroom in Bass. I know that four out of the eight stalls will not close appropriately (WTF). I’ve been in this bathroom a hundred times — I know the answer, but I fail. I walk into one, hang my bag on the door, try to close the door, realize it’s the wrong one (again). I’ve wasted 30 seconds. I made the wrong choice. I’m not optimizing!

It’s all about time, and me realizing how many days I go living my life minute-by-minute. I’m talking about those days that we all have two, five, maybe all seven days out of the week. The ones where the extra 20 seconds it took you to figure out which stall to choose meant the difference between getting the 24-hour-reserve book in on time or not, between being late for that meeting or not, between having a serendipitous moment where you meet you soul mate over spilled coffee or something romcom-ish like that, or not.

This culture is bred by things like shopping period, where I’ll spend more time agonizing over whether it makes sense to try shopping two seminars at the same time than I’ll actually spend in the class. If I go to two, which one do I show up late to? What if the second one just had everyone write their names on a piece of paper and I miss everything? What if the professor sees me come in late and decides at that moment that he won’t let me in?

I want to believe that this is me growing up. That I’m supposed to be spending more time making even the smallest decisions because each one really will impact my future. But where does it stop? I’m in Disney World, the happiest place on Earth, where I know that I should feel relaxed, but I can’t. I’m still plagued by the fear of wasting time, and now I’m anxious that I’m wasting my time on vacation because I can’t let go. How can we separate the decisions that matter from the ones that don’t? I’m not sure what the solution is to this problem, or the Bass bathroom stall problem, or the eternal shopping period seminar problem, or the computer cluster stapler shortage problem, but for now I’m trying to step back and remember that even though every small decision I make will have an impact on my life, I won’t actually ever know the difference.

In the case of the line at Disney, I did get to see the difference, and I saw that I made the “wrong” choice — the fanny pack clan got on before me. Maybe with those extra 30 seconds I would have run into Steven Tyler or seen some fireworks explode dramatically over the Disney castle, but I didn’t, and honestly, I don’t think I missed a thing.

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