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Blinded by the Disney Light

As part of a Valentines surprise, my husband and I went to Disneyland.  I had been asking (more like begging) to go since Thanksgiving.  When he announced his plans the day before our adventure, I couldn’t help but almost squeal.  What is it about Disney that evokes such emotions from a 31 year-old woman?  Get it together Josie!
But I couldn’t hide it; I was super excited.  While we have lived in Los Angeles for the last eight years, this would only be my second time at Disneyland.  Upon entering the park, the inner squealing began again.  After our 10 hour day in the park, what I realized is Disney knows exactly what they doing.  Evoking past memories and current experiences that result in a mixology of emotions.  For me it was inspiring.
Just look at the collage of characters below.  Chances are at least one of these you identify with currently or have some kind of childhood memory from.
There it is, the hook.  Now that you are captivated at Disneyland you feed into the magic, you eat things you typically wouldn’t, skip around to the next ride, overspend on mickey gear and even get on scary rollercoaster rides.  You let your inhibitions go and allow yourself to truly experience something.  In a world of overscheduling, endless emails and to-dos, Disney has done the impossible.  It draws you in and keeps you in the present.

The start to our Disneyland Valentines Day
The start to our Disneyland Valentines Day

Being and staying present is a huge challenge for me.  Call it ‘bright shiny lights’ syndrome, my mind and attention are everywhere.  I think that is also what Disney parks have figured out, they create experiences with details around every corner.  For an overactive mind, this alone kept me occupied.
Another realization I had after my Disneyland experience was the inspiration it drummed up.  I am experiencing a pretty major shift in my life, going from a full-time workaholic to full-time student status.  There are days it takes every ounce of courage in me to keep my heart steady.  There are countless popular Disney quotes that basically tell you to live you dreams.

I gladly welcome these messages, as well as learning the story of successful ‘dreamers’ who lived bold and courageous lives.  I know there is plenty out there about the dark side of Disney (other than recently purchasing Star Wars).  But guess what?  This world has enough dark, so am I ok being blinded by the Disney light.
Finally, I had to highlight the emotions Disney is able to pull out of people.  I say pull, because for me at Disneyland sometimes it was unexpected.  As I wrote earlier, upon entering the park I felt a serge of excitement.  The kind of excitement adults typically push aside, like how you used to feel on birthdays or looking a puppies.  Authentic, real, pure excitement.
The very last thing Lloyd and I experienced at Disney was the California Adventure World of Color light show.  This twenty-ish minute show was done over water, with the technology like a Bellagio Las Vegas show, but with the theatrics of Disney.  Lights + Water + Disney Scenes = Feelings!
P1010462Maybe it was because we had been on our feet for 10 hours or from pumping pounds of sugar through our viens, but this show transported me back to my childhood home in Wyoming.  My mom is a kindergarten teacher, so Disney basically runs in my veins.  The memories of being curled up on the couch with my family, watching such classics as Snow White, Aladdin or Lion King.  The reminder of how it felt to be in awe of the characters, drawn into the fairytale story and waiting for the (guaranteed) happy ending.
Looking back on the last decade or so, I think I have kept my inner Disney dreamer at bay.  Too much grown-up, responsible things to focus on.  Sure I had found my prince, but I was far too busy to really let myself play.  Now this doesn’t mean that I am going out and buying a Disneyland Annual Pass or filling up house with Mickey memorabilia.  What I will do is embrace curiosity, the adult form of make-believe.  Such things as saying yes more than no.  As a doctoral student, being curious serves me very well, exploring a variety of topics and interests to help me improve higher education.  I hope as Walt Disney describes, I will be lead down new paths.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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