I'll Never 'Grow Up' From Disney

I'll Never 'Grow Up' From Disney

Disney isn't just a kid's arena, it's a fantastical atmosphere of lands and movies that can mean a lot to anyone.

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I spent the first four years of my life living in California, just a one hour drive from Disneyland. Suffice to say, my parents took my sister and I there constantly, even after we moved to Idaho. There wasn't a lot of fun going on in my life. I was a sick kid dealing with chronic ear and sinus infections, asthma, severe allergies, you name it. Then there was the fact that my family didn't always get along. There was just the normal dysfunctional aspects of a functioning family at work, you get the gist of it. When we were at Disneyland though, or sitting down to watch a Disney movie or show... none of that mattered. We were transported to a fantasyland where we all became mesmerized by the magic and possibility. Sickness and fighting suddenly didn't feel so obtrusive and annoying.

Just thinking about Main Street, I can smell the sugary churros and the sweet cotton candy. When I see the castle, I see glittering ballgowns and dancing. I remember the princesses I tried to embody and dress up as when I was a little girl. I see fireworks pop into bright colors creating mesmerizing shapes in the sky. There are the rides too, which are dazzling yet sometimes simple experiences, all of which is told with the help of the mascots from their beloved movies and shows: the gallant men, the dream-ridden and hard-working women, the rambunctious children, and the little yet bold animals. We all have our favorite characters, right? The ones we simply love and resonate with?

For me, that's Tinker Bell. I used to spin my Tinker Bell glow spinner sitting on the sidewalk, waiting for parades to start, trying to distract myself from severe ear pain. Pain so bad I would claw at my cheeks and draw blood out of pure agony. With Tinker Bell though, I loved and still love her as my mascot. She helped me get through bad times. Mostly cute, helpful, and dainty, but with moments of sass, jealousy, and serious rage—I definitely identified. Just having that resembling and adorable character in my grasp was enough to alleviate my spirits and make me feel giddy instead of sad. I get this way even now watching my favorite Disney movies or even the trailers for upcoming Disney movies.

Often when someone asks why I'm grinning so big from anything Disney-related such as my Disney Emoji Blitz game or watching a trailer or reminiscing over my time spent at one of the Disney Parks, I just tell them in reasoning, "I love Disney!". It's easier than explaining that I love being reminded about that child in me, that part of me needs a fantastical character or idea to cling to in this crazy, tumultuous life. That's not going to change. I still grab my Eeyore plushie when I don't feel well. My family still takes trips to the Disney parks and watches Disney movies together to bond (one of our only family activities).

When anyone's trying to get to know me, I tell them they should know I'm obsessed with Disney. It's gotten to the point that it's a defining characteristic of mine. To me, when I say I'm obsessed with Disney, they should know I cherish magic, wonder, and creativity. I love the cheesy, clumsy, cute characters and catchy songs. That's what I enjoy, and it's not simply my escape, it's just what I love. It won't change with age and maturity—it's just me.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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For Camille, With Love

To my godmother, my second mom, my rooted confidence, my support

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First grade, March. It was my first birthday without my mom. You through a huge party for me, a sleepover with friends from school. It included dress up games and making pizza and Disney trivia. You, along with help from my grandma, threw me the best birthday party a 7-year-old could possibly want.

During elementary school, I carpooled with you and a few of the neighborhood kids. I was always the last one to be dropped off, sometimes you would sneak a donut for me. Living next door to you was a blessing. You helped me with everything. In second grade, you helped me rehearse lines for history day so I could get extra credit. In 4th grade, you helped me build my California mission.

You and your sister came out to my 6th grade "graduation". You bought me balloons and made me feel as if moving onto middle school was the coolest thing in the entire world.

While you moved away from next door, you were a constant in my life. Going to Ruby's Diner for my birthday, seeing movies at the Irvine Spectrum and just hanging out, I saw you all the time. During these times, you told me about all of the silly things you did with my mom and dad, how my mom was your best friend. I couldn't have had a greater godmother.

In middle school, you pushed me to do my best and to enroll in honors. You helped me through puberty and the awkward stages of being a woman.

Every single time I saw you, it would light up my entire day, my week. You were more than my godmother, you were my second mom. You understood things that my grandma didn't.

When you married John, you included me in your wedding. I still have that picture of you, Jessica, Aaron and myself on my wall at college. I was so happy for you.

Freshmen year of high school, you told me to do my best. I did my best because of you. When my grandma passed away that year, your shoulder was the one I wanted to cry on.

You were there when I needed to escape home. You understood me when I thought no one would. You helped me learn to drive, letting me drive all the way from San Clemente to Orange.

When I was applying to colleges, you encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. You told me I should explore, get out of California. I wanted to study in London, you told me to do it. That's why, when I study abroad this Spring in London, I will do it for you.

When I had gotten into UWT, you told me to go there. I did and here I am, succeeding and living my best in Tacoma. I do it for you, because of you.

When I graduated high school and I was able to deliver a speech during our baccalaureate, you cheered me on. You recorded it for me, so I could show people who weren't able to make it to the ceremony. You were one of the few people able to come to my actual graduation. You helped me celebrate the accomplishments and awards from my hard work.

When your cancer came back, I was so worried. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do without the support you had always given me. When I was in Rome, I went to the Vatican and had gotten a Cross with a purple gem in the middle blessed by the Pope to help you with your treatments. It was something from me and a little bit of my mom in the necklace, the gem.

Now, sitting so far from you away at college just like you wanted me to. I miss you. I wish I was there to say goodbye.

I'll travel the world for you, write lots of stories and books for you, I will live life to the fullest for you.

You are another angel taken too early in life. Please say hello to my parents and grandma in Heaven for me.

Lots of love,

Haiden

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