It was important that I go back.
Granted, I have been to Disneyland more times than I can possibly count. But thirty years after stepping into Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom for the first time, on August 19, 1988, it was important to me that I return on the exact day of the thirtieth anniversary—August 19, 2018.
The irony, of course, is that I hated Disneyland on my first visit. Why? First, I am obsessed with the weather and compulsive about avoiding hot weather. Some of my memories from that first visit have melted over time, but three decades later the memory of me melting under the heat lamp that is the summer sun in Southern California still burns. According to Mark Twain, the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. I spent the summer of 1988 in San Francisco, making my acclimation to Anaheim in August even more arduous.
Second, I have zero patience. None. Niki will tell you that she has never seen me lose my patience. Why? Because it is impossible to lose what you do not have. That year, the newest Disneyland attraction was Star Tours. Like everyone else in 1988, Star Tours is what I wanted to ride most. Unfortunately, we were still a decade away before Disney developed its virtual queue Fastpass system, so every guest wanting to ride Star Tours stood in the same line doing the same thing.
Waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
We waited more than three hours for our first Disneyland ride. Our four-minute simulated Flight to Endor then turned into a Day to Endure. Because we arrived three hours after rope drop, and then waited another three hours for our first attraction, it was already afternoon and almost tomorrow by the time we finally stepped out of Tomorrowland and into the rest of the Magic Kingdom. By this point the Happiest Place on Earth was only more people and more heat. The only relief in sight was a water ride on the western side park. Only after trudging over did we realize that our beacon was a mere mountainous mirage. Splash Mountain was still under construction and many months away from opening.
Yippity Do Dah….
When the end of the evening arrived I was more than ready to exit. Fast forward three decades and here I am—teaching classes, writing books, and making professional presentations on my favorite place anywhere in the world—Disneyland.
So it was important that I return on August 19, 2018 to celebrate the anniversary. Just like that fateful day thirty years earlier, it was equally important that I experience Star Tours first. Niki and I made it in time for rope drop, walked down Main Street, and turned right into Tomorrowland. We stepped into our StarSpeeder at 8:13 am, five hours and forty-seven minutes earlier than on my first visit. Walking out into a Tomorrowland where it was still early morning and into a park that was cool and uncrowded, I couldn’t help but wonder what if?
What if, thirty years ago, we had gotten up early and made it in time for rope drop?
What if, thirty years ago, I had ridden my first Disneyland attraction in thirteen minutes or less, versus three hours or more?
What if, thirty years ago, I had loved my first day at Disneyland instead of being so disillusioned and disappointed?
On August 19, 1988 if I had ridden Star Tours in thirteen minutes or less then my life today would look totally different. There would be no History of Disneyland class. No Wisdom of Walt or Beyond the Wisdom of Walt. No blog, either, so Mondays would be a bit different for you, too.
The disappointment of that first day led me to a lifetime of curiosity and exploration. When we returned three years later I read everything I could get my hands on about how to have the Best Day Ever at Disneyland. That research led me to discover who Walt Disney really was, why he built Disneyland, and how even Walt Disney couldn’t speak the words “Magic Kingdom” and have his dream magically appear out of an Orange Grove in Anaheim.
A three hour wait in line became a three-decade obsession. A disappointing day at Disneyland became a life-long passion and purpose. Looking back on that first visit, I ask myself what would you change if you could?
One of the stepping stones toward success is buying into the belief that everything in your life is always working for you. Everything. The good, the bad, the dreams and the disappointment are all right on schedule. Whatever you are struggling with today will inevitably take you where you need to be tomorrow. We can’t always see it. We almost never like it. But you can trust it.
Aside from having zero patience, I am also a bit of a control freak. My Disneyland tours are all about being in charge and taking control. Thirty years later and I am still working to redeem the three endless hours that we wasted waiting for Star Tours.
But they weren’t wasted.
And that’s the point.
Life is an endless series of decisions, choices, and options. Some are seemingly inconsequential, i.e. what time you arrive at a theme park. But you never know. My first day at Disneyland wasn’t the dream day that I envisioned, but it made my current dream possible.
When we don’t get what we want, when we want it, it is tempting to see life as a collection of consolation prizes. That was certainly my perspective at the end of August 19, 1988. Today, I see it differently. My three hour wait for Star Tours was really a constellation prize.
The universe is running right on schedule.