One thing they don’t tell you when you’re a little kid is that being an adult is no fun. There are bills, there are pressures, there is stress and there isn’t anybody who’s going to make sure you get a snack at a specific time of day.
I spent last weekend in Disneyland and I was reminded that even though there are aspects of adult life that are a total drag, it’s important to take some time every so often to remember what it was like to be a child. Now I don’t mean in the sense where you digress into a childlike state and disregard all your responsibilities and forget how to feed yourself. I mean it in the sense that Disneyland is one of the few places on Earth where everything around you is meant to evoke a period either in your life (or perhaps on a greater scale, a time in American history) where things were ideal.
It’s abstract, sure, but the fact is that there are a lot of things – whether they’re as routine as another day at the office or as extreme as another war in the Middle East – that make us forget the potential that we as a people (not just as a country) are capable of. Imagine what the world would be like if people actually followed through with the ambition of Tomorrowland or sought out the thrill of Adventureland. Imagine how people would treat each other if they extrapolated the shared understanding and respect that’s involved with standing in a line for eighty minutes for a ride that lasts two. You can wave off Disney as a crass and thinly veiled capitalist enterprise, hell-bent on funneling you into a gift shop to fleece you of cash, but when was the last time you were so unabashedly happy that you didn’t give hugging a stranger in a felt mouse costume a second thought or so uncaring of what other people thought of you that you wore Mickey Mouse ears with your name embroidered on the back?
The magic of Disneyland – at least for me – is not the spectacle of the fireworks, the highly choreographed street parade, the technological achievement of the rides or the plethora of ways sugar can be recombined for maximum deliciousness. It’s the look in a 4-year old’s eyes when Mickey saunters over, drops to one knee and offers a hug. It goes beyond the idea of, “this is the character I see in all those cartoons.” It’s the moment where they realize it’s all real. That’s what I think we’re missing in our daily lives: the willingness to suspend our disbelief learned from years of being bombarded with the harsh truths and horrors of the world and embrace what we always imagined – or rather what we always knew – was real.
It’s easy to get lost in the everyday, to get jaded and forget what could be. I know Disneyland isn’t for everyone, but it helps me remember what it feels like to be surrounded by unbridled potential, what it feels like to discover something new and, most important of all, what it feels like to be a child again.