<Today really is the perfect day to post this, as it was exactly ten years ago that I checked in for my Walt Disney World College Program. I really can't believe it has been that long. It feels almost surreal.>
Vista Lay--I mean, Way.
This was simultaneously the place where I lost myself, and found myself.
Of course being 1300 miles from my family and friends played a big part in this, as did working at Disney...but out of all of the aspects of the College Program, the "living" aspect - and more specifically, living at Vista Way - is what changed me the most. In so many ways, Vista 909 is where I grew up; unfortunately, I didn't grow up enough. Vista was both the site of some of my biggest accomplishments, and the site of some of my biggest mistakes, some of my lessons learned a little too late.
Living at Vista taught me that one can have a sister who isn't actually a sister. Although years have passed and things have changed drastically, in four and a half months a girl I'd never met and never would have met became as much my family as an unrelated person could. She - my roommate - was there for me. To worry about September 11th, to gush about guys, to sigh over missed loved ones, to party with and even be annoyed with (once in a great while). Having had two sisters, having had a handful of very close female friends throughout my entire adult life, and having also been a part of a sorority - my roommate at Vista is to this day the closest thing I've had to a friend who became something like a sister to me. I think this was mostly because of our living situation - maybe not Vista 909 specifically, but being thrown into an apartment with two other girls who we didn't exactly care for, knowing no one in Orlando except other interns and Disney employees, and being so far from the people who populated our pasts. I don't know many College Program participants who lived at Vista or Chatham who didn't find another person to latch onto - it's how we survived, I guess.
Living at Vista taught me to appreciate how my mother had cooked me decent meals and done my laundry all my life. After living off Burger King, Wendy's, frozen pizza, grilled cheeses and Ramen noodles...after ruining God knows how many bras, not to mention making that usual colors-with-whites mistake...one can't help but look back with fondness and wish for the days when there was someone there to feed you chicken pot pie and roast beef; to painstakingly separate your clothes into normals and delicates, darks and lights.
Living at Vista taught me how to live as an adult. I had to buy toilet paper and garbage bags, do dishes, clean kitchens and toilets and showers, take out the trash. Of course I'd had chores back at home, but to be completely honest they were few and far between and I'd never had to worry about being the one stuck doing all the work while the others let shit just pile up, get dusty, mold over. The one thing I will say is that in this particular apartment, although it got a little dirtier than I would have liked and although at times certain roommates were doing more of the work than others, things weren't so bad. That was a problem I dealt with a bit later in life.
Living at Vista taught me how to balance partying and work. This wasn't college. This wasn't getting to sleep in and then sit through a few hours' worth of classes and then go to a couple activity meetings, maybe study for an hour or two before going out or going to bed. This was a different party in a different apartment every night, and then having to get up and be on my feet for seven to fourteen hours dealing with guests and co-workers for minimum wage. There were nights I didn't go to bed until 6 AM and somehow got up at 10 AM and worked a nine or ten hour shift at the Magic Kingdom, then did it all over again. Looking back, I can't understand how I made it through those four and a half months. If I had wanted, I could have partied every single night - there was always something going on. I've been in college, I've lived in a dorm, and that was nothing - nothing - compared to living at Vista. Yet somehow I found a way to trudge through it, parties, late nights, little sleep, long work days and all.
I won't get into how and why I regressed at Vista. What matters is that I made it through living there. Even if I lost a part of myself, I gained so much more. And that's probably the biggest part of growing up, of becoming an adult...that's what made Vista Way, Apartment 909 so important to me. That's the part of me that it built.