At the age of 18, I held a 4.2 GPA and had just applied and gotten rejected from some of the most popular universities in California. What was an ambitious girl to do next? I applied to a small college near the beach and to my very first job, at Disneyland. And this is where Wendy met Peter.
Before I met Peter Pan, I really knew nothing about love or how to even socialize as a grownup. While in the land of high school, I thought I had it together. I was involved in every extracurricular activity, I flirted with every guy at band camp, I dreamed of being the next Spielberg, and I even had a speech prepared for my first Oscar win.
Throughout my time in that cute little college by the beach, I was focused on my grades and trying to major and minor in all of the things that would somehow benefit my future and hopefully find me happiness. I quickly learned that I was still a newbie to the adult world. Hell, my idea of a crazy night was sipping a Smirnoff Ice in my studio apartment. I had never been to a party in high school, and the party scene in college was completely new to me. My first boyfriend was senior year of high school, and I don’t know if I was ready for it—but I was the spinster of my school and had no idea what it felt like to make out with a guy, so I gave it a go (it was a lot like eating a mango to 18-year-old me). We said our “I love you”s, but it felt mechanical. It was almost like part of a script that someone handed us, and six months later we broke up because we ran out of things to talk about.
Fast-forward to halfway through my college experience and I was at a house party. It was a Disney party, which in my opinion, has always been my ideal version of a perfect sorority life, because no one could judge me for being an awkward and loud 20-something. I met this guy who was a tad shorter than myself, and I was instantly attracted to him. I should’ve been studying or changing my major again, but instead I was talking to this guy, who seemed to be the life of the party. All of the girls were flirting with him, and I quickly realized that in our little Disney world, he was the cool kid on campus. In some sort of fairytale fate, he got my number and invited me to see him in action at work.
One crisp evening after a magical day at work, I sauntered over to the docks of “Rivers of America” at Disneyland. I looked around me and stared in awe at the sea of people that formed the audience about to watch him do his 9 to 5. The lights went up and the infamous water show began. About halfway through the show I waited in anticipation as the lights dimmed and a pirate ship sailed out. The lights burst on and a spotlight hit a feisty and playful Peter Pan that had managed to steal the heart of the entire crowd, and in that single moment, he had stolen my early 20-something year old heart, as well.
We dated approximately half a year. Ironically, Peter Pan was my first grownup kiss and my first grownup “I love you.” (It was grownup because I lost focus of everything and anything.) He was all I could think about. My head was spinning with him. I melted when he looked at me and when we argued I would get so angry that I wanted to stand on top of a mountain and throw fine china. Wasn’t this the definition of true love?
Shortly after the relationship came to a screaming halt, I left my cute little college by the beach with a B.A. in a major that I have never actively pursued. I quit Disney shortly after and kept my little pouch of pixie dust in my pocket to get me through the years after college. When I was that little 18-year-old girl dreaming of my future, I really had no idea what to expect. College was the greatest adventure, where I learned that jobs should be fun and love should be big, and that you should never fight with someone so bad that you want to throw expensive porcelain. My current Prince Charming makes me laugh and feel like my high school self: a version of me that I thought was lost, but had to get through the great college years to re-discover.
Erika Jenko still believes in dragons and aspires to someday be as awesome as a unicorn. She is a former Disney cast member who still practically farts pixie dust. She is on an endless quest to find the Disney magic in New York. Follow her along for the ride at @subwaymousenyc and thesubwaymouse.tumblr.com.