Maybe it hits you when you start to pack up your side of your room and you find various mementos from memories you’ve made over the past four to six months; or maybe it hits you when you put on your costume for the last time and say goodbye to the fellow cast members you worked alongside who really became family. But really, it’ll hit you the hardest when you’ve said your final goodbyes to each park, you’ve watched your last Wishes, you’ve cried with your friends as you held hands leaving Magic Kingdom and you’re sitting in the car (or at the airport) leaving your Disney life behind.
It’s the sign you had a magical experience and that now, you have something to miss.
It’s Post Disney College Program Depression.
If you think it hurts like hell when you’re saying goodbye, it hurts 10x more when you’re actually gone and far away from the people who became the biggest parts of your life in such a short amount of time and the magical place that brought you all together.
You find yourself flipping through that DCP Facebook album you never quite finished because you got so caught up in having the time of your life. You click along and watch your journey unfold right before your eyes and you can’t believe that it wasn’t that long ago that those pictures were taken. It’s been a month, maybe two, but it feels like a lifetime has passed by.
Anything Disney related sets you off. If you go to see a Disney movie, the opening sequence with the castle makes you cry. If you listen to Pandora and a Disney song comes on, you’re a mess. If a Disney Parks commercial comes on the TV, you bury your head into a pillow because the sight of your happy place is far too much to bear. If someone asks you about your time at Disney, you give them a long spiel and in the middle of it start to get choked up thinking back on everything.
You constantly post throwback pictures from your program because you’re in denial that it’s over and you’re always checking the Disney Careers website because getting back to Disney would be (another) dream come true.
Moral of the story? PDCPD sucks.
Maybe it isn’t something that can be cured; how do you stop missing a portion of your life that changed you forever?
Maybe, instead, you learn to live with it. You accept that it happened, that it was wonderful, that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that now…it’s over.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to lessen the pain, so here’s a few ways that you can help cure your PDCPD:
- Talk to your CP friends. Yesterday I was thinking about everything and looking through pictures and suddenly I felt overcome with sadness…so much so that I started bawling. After texting my closest friends from my program about it, they both called me and even though hearing their voices hurt at first, I felt better after talking to them. Staying in touch with friends from your program is a wonderful way to keep the magic alive long after your program is over, especially because no one else in your life is going to understand what you’re going through except for them. Keep them close; lean on each other because they’re the best source of support.
- Create a shadowbox or memory board. Having everything with sentimental value from your program in one place may actually make you feel better. Maybe you’ll cry putting it together, but once it’s done…I promise it’ll make you smile, seeing all of the memories and experiences you had in one special place. Pictures, movie stubs, fastpasses (if you were lucky enough to snag some paper ones), wristbands from HOB, four keys cards, your acceptance post card and, of course, your name tag are some things I would recommend gathering for your project.
- Plan a trip. The best thing about doing a college program? Reuniting with your best friends in the most magical (or happiest) place on earth! (Or even visiting each other in your hometowns!) If you have your heart set on meeting up with your friends again, put aside a little money from each paycheck and plan a trip with each other. Planning a vacation, even when it’s far away, will help to offset the sadness from your program being over because you’ll be too excited about reuniting with everyone and being at Disney again!
- Look into future careers with TWDC. Just because your program is over, it doesn’t mean that your time with Disney is over forever. Completing a college program opens up a lot of future doors for you, especially if you go back to school and earn your degree. You can apply for professional internships, alumni programs, go part/full time right out of school or, if you’re feeling up to it, you can always apply to a program for the semester after you graduate. If you feel that Disney is where you’re meant to be then make it happen! The sky is the limit.
The first few months after your program ends are the hardest. You watch new CPs begin their journey and you wish more than anything that you could rewind and start yours over. But you know what? I think a silly, willy, nilly old bear said it best:
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – A. A. Milne (Winnie The Pooh)
When you think about it, we are incredibly fortunate to have had the experience we had. Thousands of students apply every semester and we were among the chosen few (thousand) to participate. Some of us even got to extend our programs and continue making magic for longer than we expected.
We worked hard, we played hard, we loved hard, we cried hard, we failed hard and we succeeded hard. We found ourselves, we grew up, we made mistakes, we followed our hearts and our dreams and we never once looked back because we were living.
And that, my friends, is how I want you to continue to be. Be fearless. Be adventurous. Maybe you’ll never be the exact same person you were those few months but it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to grow and be the best that you can be. And, lastly, be proud of yourself, because you were responsible for making magic every single day and you did a damn good job.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” -Dr. Seuss