Halloween is only days away, and it seems like yesterday that I can recall eagerly getting ready for the big event and staying up late in hopes of devouring my entire Trick-or-Treat bag. To my dismay, my mother ensured my sister and me were covered from head to toe in down vests, long-sleeved shirts, and sweatpants. Watching my friend Mary Susan skip down the street in a bright green Tinkerbell costume as her blond hair and white glittered wings bounced in front of my face, I could feel the longing of wanting to be a Disney princess or heroine. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I jumped up from the beneath the water of our backyard above-ground pool pretending to be Ariel or how often my sister and I played “A Part of Your World” and spun around with blankets pretending it was a magic carpet ride. Fast forward twenty years later and Halloween becomes a never-ending late night party with plenty of raucous drinking, smoking, and just about anything imaginable. Disney princesses have lost some of their sparkle and imagination. Nearly every -ism, dating experience, and prom memory will tell you Life isn’t like a Disney movie. Although they have a point, thinking back on my favorites, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, there’s some important lessons Disney got right:
Don’t wait around for someone unless he’s Prince Charming. Too often I’ve seen women and men wait for each other, assuming the other person will suddenly change their mind about commitment or have a change of heart and decide they’ve been wrong all along and this relationship is the real thing. Princess Jasmine is one woman who doesn’t wait around for someone else to be her knight in shining armor. She goes out on an adventure and she runs into Aladdin, someone who understands her sense of adventure and desire to be known as a person and not for their status. Her independent spirit continually reminds me, don’t settle for a person, job, or place. Everyone deserves to have friends, significant others, and employment that brings out the best in them. If you really want something, you’ll make it happen, no matter the odds. Money can always be made and saved, the right person will come along when you’re ready, and opportunities don’t wait around forever, you have to grab them when you can.
Always have a sense of adventure and don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. For years I dreamed of running away and escaping my small hometown that never felt like home. Like Belle, my only escape was books, they were and always will be my best friend. My daydreaming habits may seem unusual and difficult to understand, but I never gave up on believing there is a great adventure for me. My travels, unconventional work and lifestyle, and unique group of friends still give me adventures and I’m always eager to take on more. But, your adventure doesn’t have to be radical or unconventional like mine. Settling down and having a family or finding a house to call home or going on a hike nearby are all adventures and you shouldn’t let anyone make you question the adventure you decide to take.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. This is your life, it does not belong to anyone else. Friends and family may give plenty of advice, but you are the creator of your own destiny. When Jafar, the Sultan and Aladdin are arguing over whom Jasmine will marry, Jasmine says it best, “I am not a prize to be won.” Make your decisions based on what you need, not what others think you should do or think you need to do.
Be understanding of those who aren’t like you. If you give someone a chance instead of pushing them aside, you might find something there that wasn’t there before. Many times I’ve seen others ignored or been overlooked myself, and rather than shutting someone out, I find I am much happier reaching out to them and befriending them. Striving to bring out the best in people is more effective than dismissing them. Everyone saw a Beast, but Belle was patient and despite some setbacks she convinced the Beast to let her in and from there they developed a deep lasting bond that everyone hopes for. Everyone has something good in them, no matter how much of a beast they appear to be. Even though everyone in town thinks Gaston, the handsome muscular brute, has it all, sometimes the Beast is the one who is worth it. And, he can give you a library.
Everyone needs a little help from their friends. The Beatles had it right. Without her voice, Ariel’s friends jump in to help her win the heart of her true love, Prince Eric. They find ways to distract Eric, arrange a whole ensemble to get Eric to “Kiss the Girl,” and comfort Ariel when she’s crying on the dock, thinking all is lost. It’s disappointing to see Girl-On-Girl Hate and people who appear to be friends turning their backs on each other. No relationship is perfect, but if we would realize everyone has their faults and realize the value and worth each friend brings to our lives, we could accomplish a great deal more than we do tearing each other apart.
Love someone for who they really are. Aladdin assumes his only way to capture Jasmine’s heart is to have someone with magical powers change him into something else. Although Aladdin arrives in town with a huge parade, Jasmine’s not impressed. Jasmine loves Aladdin as a poor street man, not as Prince Ali. We often think we have to change to get someone else to love us or that we can change someone else to be our perfect fit. We can’t change someone else, as hard as we try, and we can’t be someone we’re not to make others love us. We forget to realize that we are already wonderful and deserved to be loved as we are.
Never forget who you are. I often felt like Ariel, wanting to be part of another world, ready to escape on a grand journey. Although I wouldn’t recommend someone giving up a part of themselves to be with someone else, I also admire that Ariel never gives up hope and she never forgets who her family is. When her father agrees to give up his power to Ursula, she fights for him, even if it means she can’t be with Eric or she doesn’t survive. She leaves life under the sea, but she never forgets where she came from as she turns and hugs her father who frees her from the underwater life to be with the person she loves. We may leave a place, avoiding a return at all costs, but it’s important to remember to not lose ourselves along the way.
Love your parents, even if they drive you crazy. Your happiness is their ultimate concern. Ariel’s relationship with her father takes a turn for the worst, but in the end he realizes how much she loves Eric and wants her to be happy. Jasmine’s father comes to the same conclusion and changes the law to allow Jasmine to marry whomever she wants. Belle stays in place of her sick father, but he is the one who ultimately wants her to be with the one she loves, not Gaston. Thinking back to my early years of Trick-or-Treating, I think of how ridiculous I must have looked with so many layers of clothing, but in the end it was my mother’s love keeping me warm on Halloween night.
I’m no longer the young girl wishing to be a Disney Princess this upcoming Halloween night, but there’s a few lessons I take from them as an adult. I still want adventure, love, happiness and someone to weather the storm with like Ariel and Eric in the middle of Ursula’s stormy seas. I still want friends to be my safety net and a place to call home after my long journey like Belle in the castle with a Prince and an enormous library. Although life is not a Disney movie, I still have hope for myself and others. I still believe that if you remain true to yourself throughout the complexities of life, you will get to where you are supposed to be. And as for Prince Charming, unless he takes me on a magic carpet ride and shows me the world, he’s not worth it.