Most of this won’t make sense unless we go back to the beginning. So, let’s start at Square One.
Last week, I joined friends and family in Los Angeles, California for a 3-day Disney fan convention and a 2-day Disneyland spree. I was well-prepared for the trip: I’d made a “Secret Disney” playlist on Spotify with all my favorite songs, and I’d indulged in some midday Hercules viewing while packing my bags. I also had a fun set of Toy Story 4 tattoos and a “Girls Supporting Girls” t-shirt featuring Mrs. Potato Head, Bo Peep, and Cowgirl Jessie. Gotta find some way to stay on-brand, ammiright?
And so at 5 am on a Thursday morning, I got on a plane to fly from Nashville to Arizona, at which point I’d fly into LAX. Given my recent obsession with the west, Arizona was a sight to behold. I held my tired eyes open to see every mountain top, every desert landscape, and every potential cactus. Of course, I didn’t really see any cacti until I got to the airport, and for a while, I was ready to just stay there. On my hour-long layover in Phoenix, I was on Cloud 9. Even the Starbucks chalkboard art greeted me with a pretty masterfully-drawn rising phoenix (get it?). I was the happiest little explorer in the world, and at the time, it felt as if everything else could only pale in comparison.
But I had to keep going, because I was Cali bound.
Now, don’t get me wrong, because I’m sure California is full of some wonderful things, and I wanted to find them. As we began our descent into LAX, I was thrilled to be reminded that there were mountains here, too (helloooo, Hollywood sign!). But as we got lower, I was quickly taken aback by the realization that we had not one, but two, layers of “clouds” to get through before my vision was clear. Sure, there were your standard white, puffy natural clouds….followed by a thick layer of grey-brown SMOG.
The mountains I’d been so excited to witness were now hazy in the distance, blocked by this dirty layer of air. And outside, all I could see were buildings and cars. Upon landing, I quickly became aware of how rude many of the people around me were, how little they smiled, how superficial their attitude seemed to be. So much for the laid-back, easy-going stereotypes I’d expected. When our shuttle arrived to take us to our rental car and the driver just rushed us along and offered no help, I felt a new cloud of smog begin to settle over my head. At least when you fly into Orlando to visit Disney World, you’re greeted by the Magical Express. And I’d prefer that Disney bubble to California’s palm trees and honking traffic any day.
After over an hour of defying the odds of living through this traffic, I became eternally grateful for Nashville. Sure, the massive amount of growth is getting out of control here in Tennessee, but let’s face it – it’s not THAT bad. At least not yet.
Fifteen years ago I went to LA for the first time, and I loved it. Back then, I was obsessed with celebrity, glitz, and glam. I thought I might want to live there someday. That was before I ever came to Nashville. That’s before I knew about the peace of the country. My oh my, see how I’ve changed!
I immediately became homesick. I wanted out of that car, off of that freeway, back on that plane, back at my quiet, peaceful place of existence. But that offer wasn’t on the table, and I was here to be with my family, here to experience something new, and here to challenge myself in this newfound discomfort.
Once we got to our little AirBnB in Fullerton, CA, we met up with my godparents – two of the most wonderful people I know that I don’t get to see very often. And things got better. Stressful, sure, but better. Friday was going to be our first day at the D23 Expo, and I had absolutely no idea what I was in for, but I was excited.
And it was a Disney event, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?
60,000 happy, smiling Disney superfans waiting for hours to race into a convention center to see the premiere of the new Star Wars movie trailer and possibly a glimpse of a Jedi or two. So nothing could ever go wrong. . . right?