If you know me personally, you are already aware that I absolutely love all things Disney! I was raised in Orlando, FL so having Walt Disney World minutes away from my home was definitely a big part of that. But, my fondness for the magical world of Mickey Mouse is not just about a girl who got to visit the theme park weekly. There is much more to the story. To explain let's go back to the few Kindergarten days I remember.

At five years old my world was filled with magic and music. My parents tease me now about how I used to burst out into song in malls, schools, buses, and playgrounds. I wanted to embody the mystical narratives I read and the colorful films I watched. Of course, I had a couple of friends with a similar obsession. I remember we used to play games at school and pretend to be a different Disney princess. In our adventures, I would play the role of Melody the Mermaid. Disney ignited a storyteller and dreamer in the heart of a wide-eyed elementary schooler.

As I grew older, the games seldom subsided but the thought of being my own sort of princess still remained. I always focused on the kind, empathetic women they were, and the benevolent leaders they became. My favorite princess was Mulan, who was a childhood inspiration for me. Mulan amazed me with her boldness, willingness to sacrifice for those she cared for, and journey to becoming a strong female warrior. To this day I will tear up every time I watch the scene where she makes a very symbolic and arduous climb to retrieve an arrow a hundred soldiers could not. So yes, Disney taught me to strive for princess qualities, the ones that make passionate leaders.

And, there was something about watching stories unfold for the most unlikely of characters. In Ratatouille I was moved by Remy's journey and his big dream to become a chef in Paris, France. Who would have thought that I, a human being, could feel warmth and concern for a rat? How about the story of a clownfish and blue tang swimming across the vast ocean in search of their Nemo. Nemo was not even in the ocean but trapped in a fish tank similar to one that may sit in your home right now. However, when the band of fish refuses to give up on each other, a reunion is achieved. Even in a Bug's Life, I was rooting for a mere ant colony. Through battle and bravery, the colony taught me that when we collaborate we are unstoppable.

These are real narratives for both the viewers and the worlds they are based on. Rats scurry for good food, ants work together to make amazing rafts and bridges, and fish just can't seem to stop swimming. Pixar Studios taught me that we can learn something from everyone's story, big or small.

Now, of course, there were the parks. Walt Disney World was this little spot on Earth where my wildest dreams became reality. As a kid, Magic Kingdom had its charms, twirling in giant teacups and curtsying with Cinderella. Then Animal Kingdom was also a treat. I loved traveling in a safari through the East African savanna and riding to the top of Mount Everest. Hollywood Studios had its fantastical fireworks and the tower that would drop us at unimaginable heights. However, my favorite park has always been Epcot. A place where I was able to travel around the world and go off into outer space. Being surrounded by unreal feats of engineering and design always reminded me to strive courageously through uncharted paths.

I'm nearing twenty now but little has changed. I find that I still randomly break out into song. And, I have never forgotten to strive to be a leader who carries empathy and open-mindedness like those I remember from my favorite stories. I avidly listen to Pixar soundtracks, enjoying the walk through improbably relatable tales. And I find that I am not afraid to take leaps of faith in hopes to reify solutions for unexplored conundrums. As Rapunzel always says "if you venture out your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it."