Just Keep Swimming

“Take a look around you- the ocean’s alive! In the big blue world, it’s time for you to arrive!”

Fort Lauderdale beach isn’t one of the most exotic of oceans, and I’ve never been to the Great Barrier Reef, but as I sit here, gazing at the infinite green sea we call the Atlantic Ocean, I think back to the times I really felt like I was a part of “the big blue world.”

Last summer, I had the opportunity to snorkel in St. John. It was a serene beach with crystal clear water and a wide stretch of sand. I had never snorkeled before, so I had a few issues with the mask, but overall, it was a magical experience. I’ll never forget the seconds a swam with a whole school of fish. Within that moment, I believed I was one with the sea, and I wondered how Ariel was so willing to give it all up to be on land. My friend, Holly, who plays her in our character entertainment business, pointed out, “Ariel really had no idea how good she had it!”

A year later, I stood at the entrance of Shark Reef in Typhoon Lagoon, practically unable to move. I wondered why I was so afraid with an incredible experience under my belt. At the same time, my travel partner, Emily, who also snorkeled with me in St. John, was freaking out over the sharks and stingrays. (I swam with stingrays in the Grand Caymans, so that was no excuse for my anxiety either!) We were the only swimmers left; it was “now or never,” even though the lifeguard encouraged us to “take our time.” The exact second I swam past the drop off, a panic attack settled in. I couldn’t see fish, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t figure out how far I was from land. All I felt was chilly saltwater and the presence of a wimpy shark 10 feet below me. I got out of Shark Reef in a few seconds, but it seemed like hours. Afterwards, I was absolutely disappointed in myself. Our whole Disney trip had been full of fear conquering. This was pathetic.

A few hours later, I was ready to face the reef again. I gave myself a quick pep talk. I had done this before. I knew what I was doing. This was a great opportunity – I had no idea when I’d be able to do this again. I needed to be brave. I needed to face my fears. I couldn’t keep hiding anymore. We grabbed our disinfected snorkels and wrapped around the empty queue. We got into the reef right away, and it was as if all of the fish had come to celebrate. There were sharks, stingrays, colorful fish, and a few of the Dory variety. I was disappointed at the end, only because it was over far too quickly!

It’s amazing how we can lose sight of ourselves when we’re overcome by fear. I’m a relatively strong person, who looks up to Pocahontas, dreams of being Nemo in Finding Nemo: The Musical, and has always adored The Little Mermaid, and yet I couldn’t breathe at the sight of a minuscule shark. This happens to the best of us in an array of situations. A straight-A student can forget an easy answer, a linguist can get culture shock, a singer can get stage fright. We feel the pressure of living up to our personal definitions, and that itself is the problem. The pressure is only from within, and therefore, is not necessary. Our personal definitions can be so restricting, and what I’ve been learning lately is that perhaps they are not necessary either. Fear can get the best of us sometimes, but as I looked down at Dory swimming below me, I remembered her insightful lyrics:

“Sometimes things look bad, then poof! The moment is gone! And what do we do? We just keep swimming on!”

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust,

Lindsay

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Through Hadley’s Eyes

I slowly turned around, looked into the mirror, and gazed into the eyes of the princess staring back at me. I was not looking at Lindsay- it was Princess Belle. She wore a large, gold ball gown, and her hair was pulled back, exactly like the movie. She smiled a sweet smile, with eyes that had read hundreds of books. I looked away from the mirror, and realized Princess Belle had taken over my body. I was wearing the dress; I was the princess. I finally knew what it was like.

It was my first party. With two of my best friends, Holly and Olivia, we started our own business to provide character entertainment at parties. Working under the name “Enchanted Rose Entertainment,” we created a Beauty, Little Mermaid, and Rapunzel. After countless meetings, costume creating, and rehearsals, we finally pulled it together for my wonderful niece, Hadley’s, birthday. For being on this earth for only five years, she has already become one of my best friends and a guiding light. Many friends of mine told me how sweet it was to do such a nice thing for her, but it wasn’t really like that. Hadley was the one giving me a gift.

Being a Disney fan since day one, I always dreamed of becoming a princess. I shared their struggles, their dreams, their ideas. There was always a tiny glimmer of light in my heart, telling me that there was something more out there. That light of hope promised that I’d be able to live my dreams, find the courage to follow my heart, and maybe someday meet a prince charming who would strengthen my spirit rather than destroy it. I never forgot these things, but at some points in my life, they were pushed to the back of my mind, as Jessie from Toy Story was left under the bed. As Hadley grew older, she crawled under my bed and pulled out the forgotten toys until old was new again. Hadley single-handedly revitalized my childhood.

She reintroduced me to myself, and I introduced her to the magic of Disney World. In between repetitive viewings of Finding Nemo, we watched the free planning videos. While parents and cast members reflected their sweetest memories on the television, I gently cried tears of joy and hope that Hadley would be able to have as pure of a childhood as she deserved. Long before I met a Disney Imagineer, I knew it was what I had to do. I needed to dedicate my life to keeping childhood’s innocence for the generations below and above me. I was lucky enough to experience a genuine childhood, and it shaped my life in an immeasurable way. Every child on this planet absolutely deserves that.

After the party, Hadley’s fantastic mother thanked my friends and me for our work. It was praise I didn’t even want to accept. I wanted to weep at her feet and thank her for bringing Hadley into my life and ultimately awakening everything good in my life. Yet, there are simply words in thankfulness which cannot be expressed. If only I could do the lexicon of appreciation justice.

All that I accomplish must partially be dedicated to Hadley. That one little person is the symbol of all that I want to work towards. She has truly helped me more than I will ever be able to help her. As I write this, I know that our relationship is love at its finest.

Mulan said, “I just wanted to look in the mirror and see someone worthwhile.” Through the eyes of my precious niece, I looked in the mirror and saw someone to be proud of. I may have looked like Belle on the outside, but on the inside, the tiny glimmer of light nestled in my heart was finally shining through.

Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust,

Lindsay