Pursuing Happily Ever After

On March 16th, Kaleb and I were flying home from an extraordinary one month in New Zealand. It was a dream trip for us. We planned semi-spur of the moment, purchasing tickets within four months of departure.

2016 was one heck of a year for us. We successfully launched our business which formed in 2015 and quickly morphed from an “audio production company” to a boutique video and film house. What began as a casual hobby, exploded into full on passion and lots of business. We started 2016 praying that we would book 12 weddings and maybe a couple corporate films just to show we were active and have a bit of side income. We didn’t film 12 weddings in 2016. We filmed 22 weddings and booked over 50% of our calendar for the following year. We also found ourselves filming multiple small business films. It all seemed quite surreal. Although Kaleb and I have dreamed of running a business together since the day we were engaged, we never imagined it would be in video production, and the growth surpassed our expectations.

10390213_10100189700201279_9082232975058040739_nAll along, I continued to work my other job. Yes, another full time job. Another world really. Walt Disney World was my corporate home for 9 years. To some that were outside of Disney and keeping up with our business, this was a shock thinking I’d already left. No…I stayed. In fact, I was so nervous about the rumor of leaving that I actually had a sit down with my boss and told her if I ever thought about leaving, she would be the first to know. I kept my word though it would be a while before that conversation took place.

Kaleb and I left for New Zealand the day after filming a wedding and returned two days before filming another one. We gave ourselves a single day to recover from jet lag after 19 hours of flight. Honestly, I was excited about jumping back into our company. We prepped cameras through our jet lag, woke up fresh the day of Zach and Laura’s wedding, and even danced our way to the wedding venue. We were fresh from an amazing adventure and ready to kick some serious business butt again. We were doing what we were supposed to be doing and loving every minute of it.

Then Monday came. Back to the real world. I got in my car and cried all the way to Disney for what seemed like no reason. After a month vacation, why wasn’t I ready to go back?

Probably about this time two years ago, I sat in my dear friend and mentor’s office chatting up about this small business Kaleb and I started. Troy shook his head,
“You’re on your way outta here kiddo.”
“What?! I love this place. Why would you say that.”
“You’re going to blow up and that’s a great thing. I’ve seen what you guys are doing.”
“Yea, but I like what I’m doing here. I’d like to at least make it to my ten year.”
He shrugged, “For what?”
A little shook by his contrary response, I said “It’s a cool milestone….I guess?”
“Not worth it, Niece.”

I almost resented Troy for saying that and for a while went out to prove him wrong…until the day I cried all the way there after a month vacation. He was right.

To be honest, I never stopped liking what I was doing at Disney. Sure, there are things that drive you crazy at every job, but I was a part of big things at Disney. My boss was fantastic. Our team was strong and fun to be around. The schedule was rigorous yet flexible. Honestly, it was the best possible place I could’ve been within my field of expertise, and I worked hard to get there. But then the weights of my passion shifted.

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Opening night of Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom.

During the holiday season, I was standing in front of the most recognizable icon in the world, Cinderella’s Castle. I was handed my mentors project after a sudden illness had taken a turn. I was tasked with seeing his project through to opening. As if there wasn’t enough to think about at Disney, Kaleb and I were stepping into the busiest season KEJ had seen so it’s safe to say my head was in two completely different places. The new show opened, it sounded great, the cast had a fantastic opening show, and the crowd went nuts for it. It was definitely something to be proud of. Everyone on the production team congratulated each other, exchanged hugs and pats on the back after that first show. I gave hugs too but there was something missing for me. I felt…blank. I was proud, but I didn’t have the euphoric feeling I’d come to know when completing Disney projects. After congratulating the crew, I slipped out of the crowd and quickly walked to my car.  Once reaching the safety of my vehicle, I let out a big sigh and a few tears quietly rolled down my face. I picked up my phone and noticed a new email from one of our brides.

Kaleb & Elaine, OMG, we are sitting here bawling. You captured our wedding in a way we never could have imagined…

I called Kaleb.

“Hey babe, you see that email?!” Kaleb said.
“Yea! I haven’t finished reading it, I just needed to call you.”
“How was the opening?”
“It…it was good. It was great actually,” stifling tears.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“…I think I’m done.”
“I know. Get home and we’ll come up with a plan.”
I cried all the way home because a transition was inevitable.

As mentioned before, it took me crying in my car one more time before making moves. Once we got back from New Zealand, we immediately started looking at the calendar to see when I could/should leave. We had already concluded I wouldn’t survive another holiday season, therefore the original plan was to leave right at my ten-year mark in August. Within two weeks of settling on that date, we booked 3 destination weddings, two in the summer, and sold out the year. Funny how God works isn’t it? We quickly realized I wouldn’t make it to August without completely losing my mind and health.

“Well I guess it’s May then,” Kaleb beamed.
“Dear Lord,” I said exasperatedly.
“Babe! This is GREAT!!!!!”

The following weeks were pure comedy now that I look back at it. Things change when you already know you’re leaving a place. Safe to say I was an internal emotional rollercoaster. I constantly teetered on the verge of tears or flipping tables. One day I’d be like “*sob* I can’t believe I’m leaving *sob*sob*” and other days I wanted to replay that scene in Half Baked when Scarface announces “I’m OUT” before throwing a hamburger in someone’s face. In all seriousness, it was a HARD decision, and a sheer miracle I didn’t bawl my eyes out when I finally sat down with my boss to tell her the news. It was very sad for me. 9 1/2 years may not be long by Disney standards, but man, it was long for me.

Disney was good to me. I worked on projects that I definitely wrote home about and my parents proudly shared our success. It was hard work, but lots of it was good work. I learned the priceless value of excellence and customer service from Disney. I learned the importance of integrity in everything you do from my peers. Above all, I learned that relationships matter above everything else. I had incredible mentors starting with Bruce Bowles, Al, Amy Peck, Bridget, and Troy. Of course there are others, but these few instilled learnings in me, either technical or business, that I pull from daily and will continue to do so even as Kaleb & I continue in our own business. My peers, especially the most recent, are freakin ROCK. STARS. Brilliant not just in audio design, but music, networking, and people skills (hahahah!).  I would be remiss not to mention my Kaleb, who I met at Disney, which is by miles the best thing to ever happen to me.

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It was a journey to get here but what an incredible journey it’s been. About three weeks ago, I stood in the Castle Hub at 3 o’clock in the morning listening to a run of Happily Ever After. We were two weeks from opening the largest nighttime spectacular the parks – no, probably the world has ever seen. I felt like I was in a movie – at the height of the conflict, when the title song comes on at the right time and the lyrics match exactly what the character is going through; except, the character was me. I’d listened to this music countless times, weeks prior leading up to this moment, but somehow I never heard the lyrics until this night:

Ready to begin, let the wonder take hold
Feel it draw you in, watch the moment unfold
Spark a dream that we’re meant to follow
Setting out for a new tomorrow

Every step we take, brings a new hope, a new day
Every choice we make helps us find our own way
Every wish that we pull into motion
Diving in with our hearts wide open

The story comes alive when we look inside
A new adventure there in your eyes
There in your eyes
It’s just beginning
Feel your heart beat faster
Reach out and find your happily ever after
Find your happily ever after

My heart pounded and eyes welled with tears. Before going to bed that morning, I wrote my official letter of resignation setting the date of March 27th…the day I would pursue our happily ever after.

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I’m super grateful for everything Disney has done for me and look forward to enjoying the park as a guest over these next couple months and years even. I think it’s easier to leave a career when you’re angry or plain fed up about something, but that wasn’t the case for me and it has made the transition harder. I treasure the experiences I lived at Disney. I hold the castmembers I’ve grown up with close to my heart. The only thing I regret is not taking more pictures, ha!

Till next time

*E

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