The 2016 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search starts a week from tomorrow, at 10am ET on September 8th. I made it to the finals last year (my second time applying) but wasn’t one of the 22 new panelists selected. I’m not going to lie to you, it hurt…a lot.
I knew the emails were scheduled to go out that evening announcing who had made the final cut to join the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel. I was nervous and excited and worried and impatient. I knew I’d made a pretty serious factual mistake in my Round 4 answer and that I was very likely going to get the “not this year” email, but I still had a little tiny spark of hope.
We’re annual passholders, so I decided to go into the park and to walk around Main Street USA while I waited. The sun set and I kept hitting refresh on my email on my phone. I sat near the castle and tried to slow my breathing and my heartbeat. With one email, my life could change in amazing ways. When would it come? Did I mention that I’m awful at waiting?
I was in the middle of Main Street USA, watching people and gazing at Cinderella Castle when the email arrived. And just like that, my dreams came crashing down around me. While I knew it was justified and that my Round 4 answer (not to mention allowing my nerves to get the better of me during the Round 3 interview) wasn’t up to par, it still hurt. I will probably remember that moment always, but it’s kind of bittersweet. I was crushed that I had to let go of that year’s dream but at the same time I was so happy for my fellow hopefuls who were announcing their good news.
Putting your heart and hopes into something that’s a stretch goal is scary. Really scary. And not succeeding stinks. A lot. But after I got my disappointment out of the way, I was able to realize that although I failed in official terms (clearly as I’m not on the Moms Panel yet), in a lot of other ways I succeeded. I know it sounds corny, but here’s what I gained in the process of failing:
- I strengthened my “trying scary big things” muscles. When I was younger, I was afraid to try my best because if I tried my best and still failed it would mean I was a failure. If I didn’t really try, then I could tell myself that if I had “really tried” I would have succeeded. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense but there it is. Since I tried my very best in the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search and I still failed I discovered that I actually didn’t fall apart. It hurt but I moved on, feeling stronger. Since then I’ve tried several more scary big things and I’m proud of myself every single time.
- I have reignited my love for Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I always love going to Walt Disney World, but I’d gotten in a bit of a rut. A fun rut, but a rut nonetheless. I had my favorite rides, restaurants and experiences and I’d do them again and again. Applying to the Moms Panel inspired me to start trying new things. Now I have a goal to try at least one new ride, restaurant or experience on every trip. Because we visit at least ten times a year, those new experiences are really adding up! And I’ve found some new favorites (hello Astro Orbiter!) that somehow I’d just never gotten around to in the past.
- I’ve gotten over my fear of being on video. Way back in the 90’s when I was in college, I had to do a video of myself public speaking. When I watched it I was horrified! I was so fat (no I really wasn’t) and I sounded weird and I had strange mannerisms. While the intent of the assignment was good, my fragile teenage ego didn’t handle the experience well. Ever since then I’ve avoided being caught on video whenever possible. And if I was videotaped, I made sure never to risk seeing the results. Round two required a video. Ack! I was really intimidated by the whole thing, but I did it and I was shocked to discover that it was fun. I had a great time both shooting the video and editing it and was happy with the result. And now my video-phobia has been conquered and strangely enough my self esteem was strengthened.
- I’ve learned a lot! Between spending hours on the Disney Parks Moms Panel website browsing the questions and answers, being active in a few Facebook groups dedicated to Moms Panel hopefuls, and going out of my comfort zone to try new things on each trip, I’ve learned so much that I didn’t know about Walt Disney World. As a Floridian from birth and someone who’s been to Walt Disney World well over 100 times, I kind of thought I was an expert. I think I’ve actually learned more about planning and optimizing a trip to Walt Disney World in the last 18 months than I knew from all my previous years of visiting. And all that knowledge means that I can not only help my friends and family have an amazing time on their visits, but that I have an even better time too.
- Friends. My people. My community. I’ve found a group of Disney fans who have come together in not only their love of Disney but also in their love for helping others have the best possible experience. These friends cheer each other on, console one another and truly celebrate those who go on to succeed. They share tips and advice. You might expect that with this being such a competitive process with a big “prize” on the line that there would be a lot of negativity, but I haven’t seen one bit of it. Everyone is so supportive and helpful and just so darn awesome. There are lots of places to get to know other Moms Panel hopefuls, but my go to group is the Amazing Adventures of the DisneyMP Search! on Facebook. One of the biggest disappointments in not making the panel last year is that I wouldn’t get to spend the training trip getting to know some of them better.
I guess it goes without saying that I’ll be using my FastPass+ to Round 2 during the upcoming 2016 Disney Parks Moms Panel search. I’ll do my best, I’ll try to let my own kind of strange but hopefully lovable self shine through in my answers and video and I’ll keep my focus on the journey not the destination. While making the Moms Panel would be a dream come true, even if it never happens I’ll always have the friends I’ve made along the way.