Academically Blonde

Tonight, I settled in with a glass of wine in my hand, and began watching Legally Blonde for the 100th time. It’s been a crappy week and it’s only Tuesday. When I am feeling particularly dejected, there is only one thing that can get me back on my feet in less than two hours, and that’s this early 2000s film.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, the story essentially goes like this: Girl is continuously underestimated. Girl proves everyone wrong by getting into Harvard Law School. No one respects her still; in fact, it gets even worse. It isn’t until she wins a LITERAL MURDER TRIAL that people take her remotely seriously. Oh, and she wears a lot of pink the whole time, start to finish.

I’ve been obsessed with this movie since I was 11, because it centers around a woman who doesn’t fit other people’s idea of what a serious intellectual should look like, but she literally doesn’t care, and slays anyway.

reese

I am about to take a pretty daunting step in my career, and it’s taking every shred of confidence I have. Thus, I have way less emotional energy to expend cushioning myself against the barrage of misogyny that waits for any woman trying to do anything brave. My defenses are down, so I’ve gotta let it out.

My personality and visual appearance create the perfect blend of traits that make people think I’d be qualified to babysit their kids, but leads to surprise and discomfort when I am presented in a professional, authoritative context.

It’s difficult to explain what it feels like to watch people look at you with a mix of surprise/discomposure/smirky-ness when you get up in front of a room to speak. I am hyperaware of how my physical body is surveyed any time I am presenting to a group. I see eyes drift up and down and back up again to such an extent that I remember consciously standing behind the podium when I was teaching in an effort to shield at least my lower half from scrutiny. This is a common experience for women of any size and shape, but my high voice with its slightly lisp-y, feminine cadence seems to confirm what my body already represents. I literally feel like Elle Woods in a bunny suit every damn day

6360450028973799661507447643_635796058941349848-1928226614_reese-witherspoon-legally-blonde-playboy-bunny

But in my career in academia, my most counter-productive trait goes beyond the physical. People believe that smart people are cynical. They expect people in intellectual contexts to be jaded, and to be so educated about the outside world and its failings that it crushes them into unfeeling, stoic beings. I am not cynical, I never act jaded, and I am the literal opposite of stoic. I am aware that the world can be (and kind of is) awful most of the time,  but it doesn’t carry over into how I present myself.

This is problematic, though, because our society has taught us to believe that youthful energy is naïve. There’s this conception that anyone who appears to be light-hearted must be unaware. People completely neglect to consider that a happy disposition can be cultivated and intentional, and not the result of obliviousness.

I don’t find it useful to present myself wearing my beleaguered soul on my sleeve. It doesn’t work for me, so I decide—I decide not to do that. But, because of all the additional traits I possess beyond my personality that remind people of their neighborhood girl scout rather than their boss, I get people looking at me like this from the jump-

tumblr_n091qmcvpy1qd0jm6o3_250

I could easily decide to wear less form-fitting clothing, to wear taller shoes, to contour my round face, to act so utterly ‘over it’ that people start to be afraid of me. But then what? There would still be people who will not take me seriously by virtue of the fact that I am a woman, and I lose every quality that makes me approachable. Then I’ve lost my sense of self for a small gain of an already ignorant audience.

060aeb43-87ae-44cf-94a1-b598f16bdd44

I know the answer is simple—it’s to keep on going, and to laugh when I’m underestimated. But even someone who is typically determined to be happy gets tired, and I am so, so tired. I’ve come to realize that no amount of degrees or professional accomplishments will prevent people from seeing me how they want to see me, and I need to be okay with that as I move forward.

I know what you’re probably thinking:

anigif_enhanced-24998-1435207103-3

But it isn’t just one stupid prick. It’s hundreds. I feel like I am constantly trying to bridge the gap between people’s expectations based on my appearance, and what I actually bring to the table. I know that I need to shut out people who don’t perceive me correctly, and I need to be braver and I need to charge ahead, full speed–but  doing that isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

It might happen after my 101st viewing of this movie. It might not happen until I’m 75 and retired and only surround myself with people who aren’t complete boneheads. Regardless,  I need to keep reminding myself that, were a gambling lady, I’d put all the money on myself each and every time. At some point, I’ve gotta trust that I’ll win.

finally-she-gives-epic-graduation-speech

 

 

Advertisements

My Disney Princess Audition Experience

On Thursday July 27th 2017, I, a grown woman, went to Disney Princess auditions.

As an adult with a Master’s degree, a full time job, a husband, and a dog whose teeth cleaning I had just paid for, I probably shouldn’t have been there.

But I was.

I was there.

And, while I was looking at the experience as something fun to do, I wouldn’t have scoffed at the offer to legitimately pretend to be a princess in the Disney Parks on my free weekends (it doesn’t work that way. You can’t be a part-time weekend princess, and Disney definitely won’t just offer it to you. I did not have this knowledge before I attended).

What I do have that no one there possessed, was the perspective of a 26-year-old woman. To many of my readers this will not sound old, but when everyone around you is under 18 , the gap starts to feel pretty wide and you start talking and feeling and looking like grandmother willow.

This, I discovered, was the first open casting call for Disney princesses that included 16 and 17 year olds. The line was abuzz with excitement—“I thought I’d have to wait at least two years to do this!!” “I drove here from Indiana!” “Really?? I came from Ohio!!”

“…You drove 20 hours alone to get here? No…you had to have come with a parent. Where are your parents?” [these thoughts occurred completely internally, as it was not yet revealed that I drove myself from my 9-5 job, in a car that I am making monthly payments on, and that my mom had not lived with me for 8 years. DID I MENTION I WAS TEN YEARS OLDER THAN EVERYONE PRESENT].

Their parents were there. They were all waiting outside, baking in the Florida heat against the concrete audition building, anxiously hopeful that their daughter will exit the facility an official princess.

Nerves were high.

Shaky voices and uneasy laughs abounded as girls desperately tried to make friends with each other in line. I say “desperately,” because every YouTube video that described how to prepare for this audition warned, “the casting directors WILL be watching you and WILL notice if you are being friendly or not. A REAL Disney princess is ALWAYS friendly.” Who can blame them?

So I became fast and very, very anxious friends with the six girls nearest to me in line.

One stood out from the rest.

She did not reveal her age, although she asked everyone to say their age, including me, before she pleaded the fifth. She was playing the long game, and I respected it.

Her eyes had a hyper-focus to them, looking at each girl with the intense precision of someone who had seen many, many princess hopefuls come and go. She asked everyone if they had been to auditions before. No one had. She proceeded to give us a run-down of how this was all going to go:

“It’s different every time, but when there’s a lot of girls like there are today, they’ll skip right to the face audition. You go into the room. You line up in rows to ten. They look at your face, and then they CUT YOU. It doesn’t matter HOW PRETTY YOU ARE. You’ve got to be what they’re LOOKING FOR. You need to not only look like the princess they’re wanting, but you need to look like ALL THE OTHER GIRLS who look like the princess they’re wanting. Like, a kid can’t see ELSA IN THE MORNING at a meet and greet, and then ELSA AT NIGHT IN A STAGE SHOW and think they look REMOTELY DIFFERENT. You just Never. Know.”

She might be the single most intense person I have ever met in my life, and I mean that as a compliment. She was FIRE. She knew her facts (not a single word she said above was false, by the way), and she was DETERMINED and COMMITTED to the process. The kind of determination and commitment I would expect to see in a CEO of a fortune 500 company.

But we weren’t in a boardroom. We were in a dark hallway with exposed duct work waiting to walk into a large dance studio, where we would be cut based on how closely we resembled, not only a princess, but the other girls who were currently playing the princesses.

If the process sounds like a losing battle for 99% of the people who tryout, it’s because it is.  I do not fault the Walt Disney Company for this—it’s just smart business sense to choose girls who all resemble each other to play the exact same character—and even better if they can be transformed into multiple princesses in case some girl can’t make it in that day.

Many of the videos out there advising girls on how to dress and act at a Disney Princess Audition tell them to, “BE YOURSELF,” and “LET YOUR PERSONALITY SHINE THROUGH!” “They’re looking for more than the look…they’re looking for someone who TRULY EMBODIES the spirit of a REAL PRINCESS.”

No.

Disney is looking for girls with common facial features, who can easily embody the personalities of the characters it has created. It is probably helpful if you’re nice and like people, because your job is to constantly interact with strangers. But mainly…mainly…you need to look like morning meet and greet Elsa.

My number was not called during the face audition. This could have been true for a variety of reasons—I have the body of a 26-year-old, which is to say that my womanly figure has been around long enough to get comfortable with what it’s bringing to the table, and that was about 25 pounds north of what everyone else was bringing (no shame). When I laugh I sometimes incidentally stick in my chin into my chest, and it creates a subsequent five additional chins, which the man assessing my appearance might have noticed. The one reason for why I was cut that I am absolutely positive was true, was that I did not look like any of the morning, afternoon, or evening Rapunzels, Elsas, or Cinderellas. My blonde white girl-ness was not at the white blonde girl level they were looking for. There is literally no reason to have been offended or upset by this, because there’s literally nothing to be done about it.

This is why, as I was leaving the audition facility and I heard the following comment, I started to feel anxious for the first time-

“Well, I wasn’t going to go to college if this worked out…but I guess now I kind of have to.”

My mind went immediately to the girl I was standing next to in line who had also been cut in the same round as me. The one who was determined, committed, and had eyes ablaze with the fire of competition. The one who, I am sure, had been to a minimum of five other Disney Princess auditions. Was she in school? Did she know that my impression of her was that of a powerful, fierce woman? Had she considered her potential as a boss at a cutthroat financial firm?

There is absolutely nothing immature, shameful, or foolish about wanting to be a Disney princess. There is also nothing immature, shameful or foolish about going after your dreams. But when your dream is to achieve something that is almost completely based on how similar you look to a group of girls who are already employed by a large entertainment company, all the effort, hard-work and preparation that would normally reward you in other careers goes completely out the window.

We still live in a world where we worship celebrities, where 12 year olds have social media profiles, and Sephora can charge 100 dollars for a mud mask that promises to be age-defying. Wanting to be a Disney Princess is relatively harmless and wholesome. The problem is that girls don’t typically show up in nervous hoards 400 deep for things like academic decathlons, because that’s still not where we are told our value is.

Our society still values, above most other things, being pretty enough to be considered a princess.

I want everyone I auditioned with to know that they are capable of being queens, and that there is no face audition required.

[Also, Minnie Mouse came to me in a vision and said that you should not delay your college applications based on your success at a Disney Princess audition. “WOMEN CAN BE ALL” she squeaked. “I know.” I said].

Grammar is Not a Weapon.

I can’t tell you the number of times someone has apologized for ending a sentence with a preposition in my presence, or preemptively said in a text message that they, “don’t know how to use commas” so they’re, “sorry in advance.” These anticipatory self-deprecations come not just from acquaintances, but from friends and family members that I have known my whole life.

Interestingly, I’ve never felt the urge to apologize to my biologist friend for not remembering the parts of a cell, nor have I ever stopped a nurse mid-shot to bashfully remind him or her that I cannot administer this vaccine to myself.

There is a perception that having an English degree suddenly gives me the right to forever and always be judging another individual’s command of the language whether I am in an academic context or not. I am not sure why this is—perhaps, after being teased about never finding a job, it’s society’s way of throwing English majors a bone. Even so, I would like to formally and publicly return said bone by way of this blog post. The unbridled ability to criticize is not a right that anyone should have.

I’ve heard the argument that people think that they’re just helpin’ you out by correcting your grammar so you don’t “embarrass” yourself later. It’s pretty bold to assume an English degree gives you the power to shield others from professional embarrassment, but I can agree that a little nudge that “dossier” is pronounced “dos-see-aye” and not “dos-e-ur” could be helpful before an important meeting (#forevergrateful to the person who told me that many moons ago).

What ISN’T helpful and what I DON’T understand, is when someone makes you feel the full force of the three literature classes they took in college by offering an ever-so-shady, “sweetie, it’s ‘you’re’ not ‘your’” on someone’s social media post. All you are doing in that situation is not-so-subtly trying to convince someone that you’re more educated than they are. It is not cute.

The purpose of language is to communicate. If you understand the message a person is trying to convey, there is no need for clarification/correction. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. They have successfully completed the task of language, and require no further critique.

If you’re hell-bent on touting your knowledge of technically correct spelling, there’s a good chance that you felt underestimated at some point in your academic career, and are now wanting everyone to know that you’ve got it totally together now. I know that feeling, because I feel it all the time—even though I work in a writing center, I am always afraid a student in the middle of the session is going to get up and shout, “I heard you got a D in reading in the 5th grade!” or something of that nature (that’s true, by the way, and if someone called it out on that level I would probs start crying).

Intellectual insecurity is something everyone experiences, but I find it so ironic that people take that hurt and use it to perpetuate the same feeling of inadequacy in someone else. Seems—dare I say it—emotionally uneducated.

Studying English does, in fact, teach you what a comma splice is, but on a much broader and more important scale, the study of English (or any language, for that matter) teaches you that language is fluid and ever-changing, and is inexorably linked to context.

Context: Like when a student asks the difference between definite and indefinite articles (tell ‘em!)

Context: Like when you say “y’all” amongst a group of friends, and an acquaintance tells you, “it’s actually ‘you all’” (NOPE).

Language is meant to constantly be enriched by new forms of expression (by the way, if you want to talk about GIFs as language, I am here for it 25/8). To attempt to enforce the already-shaky rules of Standard American English outside of a test in your English class doesn’t allow language the space that it needs to breathe and evolve.

Before some of you get angry because I’m calling it out so hard, I am certainly not saying that grammar shouldn’t be taught—of course we need some sort of structure for our language to make sense—I am saying that grammar should be taught as a tool for communication rather than an exacting, unforgiving set of rules (and once there are enough exceptions—are they even rules? I’m looking at you, “i” before “e” except after “c” except NEIGHBOR? BEIGE!?…wtf).

I have seen too many people use grammar as a wall to keep the exact sort of person who SHOULD be in academia, out of academia by shaming them into believing they can’t master it all. If you do this in my presence, I will use the internet, I will find your Xanga or your MySpace and I will take screen shots with big red circles drawn around all the spelling and punctuation errors, and I will show it to the person you just made feel like crap.

TL;DR: Grammar policing is the intellectual equivalent of sending a stranger a dick pic. No one asked for it, the recipient is not pleased—but the sender, for some insane reason, feels great about themselves. In both situations, the perpetrator is compensating for something that can never be acquired through making other people uncomfortable.

Why You Should Go To Your Graduation

I’ve heard a many critiques of graduation ceremonies. I’ve heard “it’s just another way for the school to take money from you by making you buy ugly robes,” I’ve heard, “the ceremony is way too long and boring and pointless,” and I’ve heard (heartbreakingly), “why would I want to celebrate a school that made me so miserable?” All of these, to a certain extent, are valid criticisms. The robes need a redesign. There are usually too many speakers before they give out the degrees. It does seem counter-intuitive to spend any more time in a school you never enjoyed being a part of in the first place. But I think you should do it anyway.

I had the honor of attending the Daytona State College graduation last night, and these are four things that convinced me that you should always walk at graduation:

  1. Grandmas

I talked to two grandmothers last night, and let me tell you, those g-mas were so hype to be there, they could hardly get a word out to tell me how old all their grandchildren were (but they managed, much to my delight). Especially as women, it was not so long ago that education was denied to us (or at the very least extremely socially frowned upon), so when grandmas see you walking across that stage with a degree—well, it’s just about the most excited they could ever be. I, personally, do not have any grandmas (not counting grandma-in-laws) that are still with me, and if this is the case for you, please know that other peoples’ grandmas are watching and are proud of you by proxy. Also, I believe heavenly grandmas get the best seats at graduation ceremonies—even Nony, who asked me why I needed a degree when I was going to get married. She would be proud, too. Grandmas can’t help it.

  1. Siblings

There were so many siblings dressed in the itchiest-looking formalwear at this graduation ceremony. While a majority of them were squirmy and asking when it would be over, there is no doubt in my mind that they were also internalizing a lot of what was happening. What siblings are seeing, no matter how uncomfortable in the auditorium seat they are, is that they, too, can follow through on something worth celebrating. Demonstrating for them that hard work is worthy of the whole family’s Sunday best is incredibly important and impactful.

  1. Pressing ‘Pause’

Ferris Bueller said that one thing about stopping because life moves fast and you could miss it—I always thought that quote was dull and obvious, but maybe it isn’t after all. By putting yourself through the often sluggish, usually-too-hot, almost assuredly disorganized event, you are stopping to soak in your accomplishment. In an era where degrees are increasingly becoming a means of economic advancement rather than a personal, intellectual endeavor, I think it’s nice to pull it back from the “I need this –> to get here and then I gotta GO” and bask in the ceremony for a little while. Besides, the tassel is cool. No one can stand up here and tell me that the tassel isn’t cool.

  1. Yourself

At the end of the day, it doesn’t actually matter what your grandma wants you to do (I just had to give them the space to state their case –the ladies I met last night would have wanted it). What matters is that you take the time to own your accomplishments. Working at Daytona State College, I’ve seen students who out-work everyone I have ever known to achieve an education with families of their own and full-time jobs, and it always amazes me that those are the people who are the least willing to step back and celebrate themselves. If you hear someone talking about how they aren’t going to walk at graduation, and they fall into that so-humble-they-don’t-even-know-it category, I hope that you remind them that they’re worth all the pomp and circumstance that comes with a graduation ceremony. And if they tell you that they don’t have anyone who would want to come—I hope you go.

Hot Gossip

I’d be lying to you if I said I never held a tea party, where the tea was both sipped and spilled under a shady canopy. We’ve all been guilty of it. Gossip is an innate part of our DNA, and actually has some great side-effects that help us keep our fellow citizens in check (read more here: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/have-you-heard-gossip-is-actually-good-and-useful/382430/). But sometimes we all need to pull a Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls and suck the poison out of our lives.

Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Saying Bye to Bad Friends

I’ve had friends in my life whom I knew would talk about me if I didn’t attend certain social events. This would stress me out to no end. I would reorganize whatever plans I had so that I could be present on these occasions, and therefore not be talked about. How did I know I was being talked about? Because those friends made it a point to spread nasty gossip about every single person that wasn’t in attendance whenever we were out together—that’s how I knew I was on the chopping block if I ever declined an invitation. Pro tip: if you’re genuinely afraid of what will happen if you can’t hang out with someone, they are not your friend.

  1. Spending Less Than 2 Minutes A Day Wondering What Other People Think of You

Throughout high school and college, I was always wondering what other people thought of me. I would second-guess my actions and find 20 different ways they could be interpreted negatively to try to bolster myself against the *potential gossip that *might be happening behind my back. It was an exhausting way to live, and didn’t help prevent the gossip that flew every time I experienced a big life change. Subtle digs like-“I guess some people need a Master’s degree to feel smart,” or – “I guess you’re just one of those girls who gets married and loses all her female friends,” you know, those pieces of advice that sound like genuine concern, but are actually just mean bits of gossip meant to make you question your whole life. I remember desperately wanting people to know that those comments weren’t a true reflection of who I was, but then I looked around me and realized something important- every major life change you go through, people are going to say crappy things about you, and you’re going to lose some friends. And that’s totally okay, and honestly for the best.

  1. Refusing to Let Social Media Make You Shady

Scientists say that gossip is “…a way to learn about cultural norms, bond with others, promote cooperation, and even, as one recent study found, allow individuals to gauge their own success and social standing” (The Atlantic). This last part is where social media plays an awful role.

I had a conversation with a wise friend the other day, and she said that women are pressured to be everything, so whenever we feel like we’re lacking in some way, we point at another woman who seems to have that part of her life together and try to tear her down as a means of justifying our choices. It’s horrible and real. How many times have you seen that so-and-so is getting engaged/married/having a baby/buying a house and said (either to yourself or another person) something resentful about how they aren’t actually happy, or their life is never something you’d want, or various other petty responses to another person’s joy? We need to recognize that, particularly for women, this is a function of our effed up society, and we need to refuse to participate in perpetuating it.

Don’t let this post confuse you—I have not reached some kind of gossip nirvana where I am never a negative Nancy at another’s expense. I’m just starting to recognize that it literally never helps me feel better about anything.

When I hear some really awful tea about someone, I try to log it away into a “to be determined” box rather than consuming it as fact. This is especially important if I have never spoken to the person. I’d hope strangers/acquaintances would do the same for me.

Another way I feel better, is by channeling all my gossipy energy into watching the Real Housewives. This is not a joke. I will drink wine and I will yell at them and say awful things because I don’t actually know them, and they will never hear what I’m saying because they’re in LA and I don’t tweet. It allows me to tell everyone that I think Lisa Rinna is a total snake, because she makes millions of dollars to BE a total snake.

I also try to let people know that I LIVE for the positive gossip. Like, if you’ve got good life news, I WANNA KNOW and I will KEEP that secret and feel like I’m brimming with soothing (not shady) tea.

Basically what I’m trying to say is the hottest gossip beverages should never be spilled, and can burn you, like it did for that one guy on survivor:

But if you ever want to talk about the Real Housewives

I’m here for it.

If You Wanted to Know How the Move is Going…

For the past 8 years, polite acquaintances have asked, “How’s Columbus/Louisville/Chicago/Orlando?” and I finally have a really long, unedited answer for you.


When my parents dropped me off on Ohio State’s campus in Columbus, Ohio and I watched their red Chevy Tahoe drive off into the distance, I felt like I had just been dropped out of a plane. As the scarlet blip of their vehicle got tinier and tinier rolling down High Street, the lump in my throat grew. I believe that an animator witnessed that moment and modeled the Mr. Krabs meme entirely after me:

krabs.jpg

That first week of school I thought I was real chill for sneaking off into the stairway to sob so I wouldn’t bother my roommates, but I just joined several others who were low key calling their moms because we all had no idea what was happening to our lives. Going from a small, Catholic all-girls school to a  giant, co-ed university was utterly disorienting.

As the months went on and I gradually stopped being shocked by the sight of men, the campus of 50,000+ became progressively less overwhelming. I found solace in taking care of similarly terrified freshmen when I became a resident advisor, and I met lifelong friends, and learned to love football in a profound and borderline-obsessive way.

Seemingly at the exact moment I had grown accustomed to my favorite view out of the Thompson Library (in the Mortar Board room, 2nd floor), and the heart-swelling sounds of the OSU Marching Band rehearsing (TBDBITL), I was accepted into graduate school at DePaul University and the University of Louisville. Marty (a cute boy I met), was moving to Chicago, where DePaul was located. I also planned to head to Chicago, but Louisville was like, “Hey girl, what if we gave you a teaching assistantship?” and I was like “I don’t even know u” but I visited anyway, and after a day on campus I looked at my dad and said:

“Dad, I can’t do this, I’m too scared.”

And he said, “Okay, then don’t do it.”

So naturally, I had to go for it.

BUT YOUR GIRL WAS FREAKING OUT–I straight up knew no one who had ever lived in Louisville, and while I had the blessing of a great roommate and a couple of amazing people in my graduate program, I spent most of the first year crying into progressively larger books because my brain hurt and I was lonely AF. It wasn’t until I found a great Chinese takeout place and I could tell you what goes in a mint julep that I started to feel at home, and then BOOM, I graduated and moved to Chicago.

I really thought that moving to Chicago would be like slinking into a warm tub of comforting feels because I had my man with me and some soulmate-level friends—but the train commute was long (45 minutes each way) and there was so much to learn about living in and taking advantage of a big city that I just wasn’t equipped for. Exhausted, post-grad Carly made her desktop background a picture of a field of wheat and dreamed of starting a farm because she felt overwhelmed.

And, as the story goes, JUST when strangers started asking me for directions and I felt confident telling them where to go, Marty and I moved to Orlando, Florida—also a city where no one we knew had ever lived. In a lot of ways, this has been a great experience, because both Marty and I knew what it felt like, separately, to move somewhere that felt scary and new, so embarking on it together was exciting and reassuring.

Some days, though, I look around me and still feel the immense weight of starting over. I keep getting confused when people “go on walks” during their lunch break because I forget that you can go outside in March. Someone told me alligators regularly climb and hang out in trees and I believed them for three months. People un-ironically wear winter coats when its 60 degrees out. It all still feels so new, and nothing beyond my screened-in porch feels comfortable yet.

In 2017, moving around seems to have become an integral part of the life of a millennial—an expected rite of passage that labels one as a “go-getter.” But this shit is hard. I hear people say all the time, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” but the exhilarating feeling of new-ness is always accompanied by paralyzing self-doubt and homesickness for a home that doesn’t really exist anymore (as all of my closest friends are now spread about the country, too). For example, I discovered an awesome little clothing store tucked away in my neighborhood yesterday that can’t be found on Google maps, and it made me feel like an awesome, super-chic adventurer– but I could also really use a night drinking wine with those who know what a “Pnina Bride” is (Marty and Gatsby try, they just don’t know) but my girls are far away.

One such far-away-soul-friend told me the other day that it is possible to get everything you want, just not at the same time, and it was surprisingly comforting.

No matter where you are in life right now—whether you’re far away, or close to home, or in a mental space somewhere in between—just know that your location isn’t the ultimate determiner of your happiness, though it can feel like it sometimes. We can obsess all day (and I do) about where we could be, instead of settling in as best we can to where we are. It’s something I have to work at every day. After I post this, I’m going to go buy some limes, because they’re 50 cents and fresh as hell here, and I know someday I’m going to say to Marty, “remember those cheap limes?” and he’s going to say “I remember you being excited about cheap limes” and we’ll miss things exactly as they are right now.

The Five People You Meet at Disney World

1. A child who is way too overwhelmed for this  

If you ever find yourself at Disney World, the name of the game is naps. Naps for everyone. You get a nap, and you get a nap…everyone gets a nap. Disney World is ten degrees hotter than the rest of Florida always and provides absolutely no shade unless you’re inside of a gift shop. Walking around a seemingly endless stretch of evenly-paved, artificial road will get you sweaty in a hurry, not to mention the line waiting and general crowd heat. It will exhaust you even if you’re just standing there. As adults, we know that we probably need to take regular water breaks, but children, once released into Disney World, will go all the way HAM and will not stop until they pass out (who can blame them?). Prior to the inevitable pass-out, though, you’ll catch a glimpse of a child just staring at Mickey Mouse with their eyes glazed over, just kind of wobbling in place. It’s a mixture of awe and possibly heat stroke. You might also see a child in a stroller just very quietly sobbing, as one does when all their dreams are coming true but they’re too tired to take it all in. My favorite is when a child just decides to start spinning around in place because there is so much to look at. The parents will be like, “Jimmy, come this way” and everyone witnessing this, including Jimmy, has serious doubts that he’ll ever be able to move in one simple direction ever again, now that his eyes have viewed such an aggressive array of brightly-colored whimsy.

2. Parents having a quiet, curt exchange with one another

This is one of my favorites to witness, because I know I’m roughly 10 years away from it being my life. The silent discontent almost always has to do with the child asking, “CAN I HAVE TWENTY LOLLIPOPS!?” and the dad saying “why not?” and the mom staring at the dad like, “there are literally 100 reasons why not” but it’s too late, and the fun parent has been decided yet again. I’ve also seen moments like this happen whilst leaving the park at the end of the night, where one parent has a child slung over their shoulder, and they’re discussing what went wrong during the day. This usually has to do with one partner critiquing the other’s #ParkStrategy or gloating about how they knew the location of the Jungle Cruise all along (it’s in Adventureland, in Magic Kingdom. Not Animal Kingdom. Like a Jungle Cruise should be. Just FYI).

3. Family members not speaking to each other OR yelling the most

Some families don’t know that disagreements at Disney world should be kept as low key as possible. I am not one to judge disputes and I don’t pretend to know anyone’s life, but some pretty epic miscommunications can happen within a place that claims to be WORLD SIZED, and some people think they’ll be spared I guess?? But no one is spared. You just shouldn’t get mad about it. I hear people on their cell phones all the time like, “Tommy you were supposed to MEET US AT THE DONALD DUCK TOPIARY!!! YOU IDIOIT!!!” and they fail to realize they’re surrounded by shrubbery shaped like anthropomorphized animals. Look around you, bro. When the voices of tiny mice singing are being pumped through speakers everywhere you turn, it’s not a time to call out our boy Tommy. Later, maybe. Not now.

4. A spoiled child

Every child is going to have a crying-in-a-gift-shop moment, but when you see one of those little girls who has clearly been to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (the most boujee salon on the planet) throwing their ten new stuffed animals on the ground crying about how they should be allowed to live in Cinderella’s castle, you start to experience bystanders’ embarrassment for her parents, who are just looking helplessly at their baby tyrant. Not hearing the word “no” does not make a child happy, even in the happiest place on earth.

5. A person who is having the most delightful moment of their entire lives

Fact: every time I watch the evening fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, I start crying. I’m not even that big into Disney movies, but for some reason that MUSIC and those shooting stars arching over the castle just take me back to simpler times. If you can look past the people listed in #2-4 above, you will see little moments of magic happening everywhere. Disney World is literally constructed to be unreal, and therefore it allows you the freedom to experience joy that reality has all but squashed by the time you turn 13. It’s like you get a little piece of your light, whistful, I-know-nothing-of-taxes-nor-standardized-tests heart back–and that is priceless.