I recently had the privilege of taking the trip of a lifetime with one of my best friends, Shira, who has been my best friend since I was 13 years old. I have a handful of friends with whom I can share anything, truly be myself and receive not only love and support but also challenges that have immensely fostered my growth. Among these individuals are Shira, my husband, Shachar, and my “soul sister,” Heather. I have had the privilege of traveling to Disney World with all of these individuals, as well as my family and high school friends—many of whom continue to play key roles in my life.
Disney is another place where my soul-self is fostered and unleashed, soaring through the air amidst the characters that I’ve always loved. This year, Shira and I decided it was high time to visit the “happiest place on earth” together—a place she had never been and where we wanted to go before she would be making aliyah to Israel—and so we planned and executed a trip, just the two of us.
The following are some lessons that I learned from Disney World during this current adventure.
- Beauty won’t be found in any mirror. While Shira and I were skipping around the Hollywood Studios Park we noticed during our numerous uses of the restrooms that the park only had one small, square mirror in each bathroom. Visit any movie theater and you’ll find multiple mirrors, including one that is tilted or floor length to reveal a full-body image. Mirrors are by no means “the enemy” or evil; it is the way one uses or abuses a mirror that can bring to light one’s value on appearance. And yet, we found the lack of more than one mirror per bathroom to be intentional and refreshing. As an institution, the parks/Disney corporation does not encourage or even bother with promoting much use of the mirror. The experience there is not about how one looks while going on the rides, walking through the parks or meeting classic characters. Rather, it is about enjoying the experience and having fun.
- Judgment-free zone. One of my biggest fears relates to growing up and death. It was this fear that fueled my eating disorder in the past and that paralyzed me from being an engaged participant in my life. It was when I learned that I can hold on to my inner child while also experiencing the wonders of getting older and the opportunities this had to offer that I was able to recover and, in general, feel most true to myself. When Shira and I entered the Magic Kingdom and were essentially greeted by a rainy day parade and joyously waved to the characters and danced along there was no feeling of judgment. No stifling of the experience or the need to “button up.” Of course there is a time and place for all types of behaviors, and creating my own version of a rainy day parade at the workplace would definitely be inappropriate. But with this being said, it was truly magical to unleash my inner child and have no fears of what others think. Whether it was our ear-to-ear smiles when meeting Star Wars characters, our nerves about going on the scarier rides or simply taking in the views, we were met with no judgment by cast members or fellow guests. This experience recharged the part of myself that is confident regardless of what others think. It reminded me who I am and I was able to be in touch with the part of myself that is proud and owns what makes me the person that I am.
- Try old things and make them new again. As a 9-year-old I had a slight Star Wars obsession. I’ve written on another platform about the way that Star Wars had an influence on my life and how its concepts and ideas can be utilized for recovery. When we were in the parks, Shira and I were surrounded by characters and references. Within one week of returning from the trip I watched Episode IV and it awakened some part of me that I hadn’t felt in quite some time. This experience showed me the value of trying out the old things that once brought meaning and joy and may have dissipated through the years for various reasons. Though the same level of enjoyment may not be felt, it is more about the practice of reconnecting with the self (as explored in my last piece) than it is about the actual activity.
- The power of friendship. My friends, family and other relationships all contributed to my recovery. When I think back on all my trips to Disney World—and I am so grateful to have had a few—I reminisce about countless funny stories and moments, emotional experiences and overall fun. This trip with Shira reminded me of how important my relationships are to me, whether with people I see every day or those whom I can only speak to on the phone once every few weeks—the people in my life help me grow and remind me of who I am. By the time this article is published, Shira will be starting off her life in Israel. I can only say how truly grateful I am that this trip was able to happen (thank you to our husbands and families!).
In my last piece I had discussed my connection with Israel, and above I spoke about Orlando, Florida. The assignment I give myself after each trip is to find ways to take these experiences and lessons with me. Rather than live trip to trip, instead I try to live each day, one moment at a time with these memories on my mind and hope for more in the future.
By Temimah Zucker, LMSW
Temimah Zucker, LMSW, is a social worker in the field of eating disorders. She is a primary therapist at Monte Nido Manhattan and acts as a public speaker, mentor and writer on the subjects of self-esteem, body image, mental health and eating-disorder awareness.