I grew up in a Disney household. My dad worked for the company for a part of my (very) young childhood, so we always had pictures and Christmas decorations and mugs and movies and... well, we had everything Disney-related one could ever imagine laying around the house. My first movie was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And I'm pretty sure I was every Disney character imaginable for Halloween -- everyone from Minnie Mouse to Winnie the Pooh to Cinderella.

I visited Disney World for the first time when I was eight-years-old, and after growing up with the company, it was everything I could have ever imagined. Since my mom and dad knew that my little brother and I were such big Disney fans, they made sure that we got everything a kid could every dream of for their first time at the theme park. We went to countless character breakfasts featuring Mickey and his friends as well as ones involving every Disney Princess known to humankind (I liked those better than my brother); we traveled the world at Epcot; we waited in line to meet just about every character so that our brand new character autograph books could be filled; and we got our very own set of ears that, really, you cannot escape the visit to the park with.

We repeated the tradition for a few years since my dad always conveniently seemed to have business trips at convention centers on Disney property. But then my brother and I started growing up. The parks weren't changing enough to keep us or our parents entertained for a week. And I had entered that strange tween phase in life where Disney is not cool -- it's for kids!

But I was lying to myself, and I knew it. While my friends would scoff at the Disney movies that came out or laugh when we talked about how childish it really was, I felt this pang of betrayal. Here I was with a group of people making fun of something that had been such an important part of my life. I had grown up with Disney and there was no denying that even while I tried to blend in with the crowd, I still loved every aspect of it.

And that's when I cut out the act. That's when I stopped pretending that I was not shaking with excitement every time Disney announced it was going to release a new animated movie or live action adaptation. That's when I felt no shame blasting Disney music in the car and singing every single word (This is still a normal occurrence when I'm in the car with my little brother because when we can agree on nothing else, we can always agree on Disney music). And that's when I started petitioning that we start going back to the Disney parks, starting with a day trip to Disneyland while my family was on vacation in Los Angeles.

We made trips to Disney for three spring breaks in a row while I was in high school and college, and I am not ashamed to say I was just as excited -- if not more excited -- than the little kids dressed up as princesses and pirates. I went straight to the store on Main Street in Magic Kingdom and got my millionth pair of Minnie Mouse ears, took cliche pictures in front of the castle, and marveled at the magic that I had cut out of my life for a brief period of time.

No matter how old I get, I feel as though Disney is something that I will never be able to outgrow. The company that was such a major part of my childhood will have my heart for the rest of my years, and its magic is something that I will happily share with my children some day. And until then I will continue to soak in the magic on my own because no matter how old I get, Disney will always remind me to keep that child in me alive. While my dreams of becoming a princess may not be that plausible, Disney reminds me to chase after my other dreams and to make sure, as Walt himself said, "All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

(Hey, look -- I kind of fulfilled that princess dream!)


All photos belong to the author. Yes -- she is even taking credit for that embarrassing early 2000s picture with Mickey Mouse.