I missed my calling as a Disney princess.
This week, the Debs are exploring roads not taken — the places we might have gone and the people we might be, had we made different choices in life. I can pinpoint one of those choices quite precisely, a decision that would have sent my life on a different path. In the fall of 2007, ten years ago precisely, when I was applying to Mary Baldwin’s graduate program in Shakespeare, I was also considering a southward relocation. I had a good friend in Orlando, and the idea of working at Disney World had definite attractions.
I would’ve been really good at it. I mean, really good. I’ve always loved that sort of interactive improvisational theatre (which is quite different from improv comedy, which I loathe participating in). It’s what I enjoyed so much about working at a Renaissance faire, and, later, in a murder mystery dinner theatre. I can hold character for hours on end. I like kids and know how to talk to them. I’ve even been mistaken for an off-duty Princess while at Disney World. A few years ago, while I was bouncing out of Snow White’s meet-and-greet area, I overheard a pair of grandparents who were waiting for their son, behind me in line: “Well, she must be one, too.” And then the grandmother actually pulled me aside to ask! Made my whole day. I’m not sure what it is, exactly; I think sometimes my hair alone triggers the association. I also have a tendency to fall into “Princess hands” and posture without thinking about it:
Everything on this list of “tough” things Disney Princesses have to do, I absolutely could’ve matched up to at 22. Hell, I could still do all of them except, well, being under 30.
Based on my height and face shape, I suspect I would’ve been cast as Cinderella and/or Belle, though if I’d stuck it out through 2010, Rapunzel might’ve been added to the mix — and hell, by 2013, probably Elsa. (Most of the actors play more than one). I like to think that, once the wrinkles began to appear and the metabolism to slow, things which rather impede one’s ability to portray a teenaged cartoon character, I would have transitioned into Disney’s Imagineering program. These are the people who design pretty much everything you see and experience at Disney World. Many are artists and technicians, but they need storytellers and developers, too. Creating worlds is, after all, what I love best. Perhaps, had I gone to Florida a decade ago, I’d now be one of the minds working on the expanded Star Wars section of the theme park.
But maybe not — maybe I’d have gotten tired of snowless winters, sweltering summers, and the utter lack of topography and would have come back to Virginia after a year or two.
If I had gone that path, would I be preparing for From Unseen Fire‘s 2018 debut? Impossible to say, really. I may never have gotten a book deal at all. I may have gotten it sooner, without the years of delay that academia imposed on my creative writing. Would I have written this book, or something different? Would I be writing for myself at all, or for the Mouse and Lucasfilm?
I know there’s no telling what, exactly, my life would be like, nor in what ways it might be better or worse, had I decamped to Florida back in 2007. There are certainly plenty of other “roads not taken” that might’ve brought me to different lives — over the years I considered going out to UCLA for film school, becoming a war journalist, even trying to make it as an Shakespeare actress — but the only one I really look back on with regret is this, not having tried the life of a Disney Princess.
There is, in truth, a not-insubstantial chance that I may relocate southward anyway. Disney is building an immersive Star Wars hotel, where all of the staff will be in-character, all the time. This sounds like absolute heaven — like the job I’ve been training for all my life but which just didn’t exist til now. Or… won’t exist until 2019 or so. And unlike being a dew-fresh Princess, being a Rebel operative is something I could never age out of — Right, General?
Admittedly, I’ve had friends express a bit of concern over my pursuing a job which would allow me to detach from reality so entirely, and they may well not be wrong. If I were allowed to delve into the Star Wars universe a full forty-plus hours a week, I might have some difficulties resurfacing for anything else. It would be like living in an MMO. I’m not even allowed to play MMOs, because they would consume me so entirely. But it’s different if you’re paid for it… right?
Post Script: If you’re interested in a really sappy story about how a meet-and-greet with Cinderella left me, a grown woman, bawling my sappy little heart out, I direct you to my personal blog.