Growing up as a kid in the early 90’s was a time of uncertainty for my parents. I was born with a genetic visual impairment and a developmental delay (mostly because I could barely see a damn thing). So the transition to school was a bit of a pain.
I hated being different. I hated the lefty scissors, I hated my grippy pencils and the lack of seeing what the teacher was reading during circle time. I hated that kids started to notice something wrong with my eyes. I hated being beat up by the neighborhood bullies. School was pretty much one big let down for me.
I became what I still call a “kindergarten flunker,” only instead of being held back, I was moved into Pre-first grade, a sort of purgatory for the kids too smart for kindergarten but not quite ready for first grade.
Even as a kid, I had my worries as to how long it would take me to graduate. When I was 7, I figured out that I would be 29 if every other grade level I had to take had a “pre” before it. In my mind, I was doomed for failure. Sent to the “special room” with the kid who would crap his pants and that annoying girl who worshipped the ground I walked on and would sing the SpaghettiOs song over and over again.
My first day of Purgatory, I met Mr. Bittle, a large gent who always had a smile on his face and a joke or two, like Uncle Joey from “Full House” but more epic.
The one thing that caught my attention was his classroom theme.
Everything Disney — the books, the toys, the cubbies, the counting squares, the walls, the chore chart, everything was Disney. Mostly Mickey and Minnie.
I fell in love with what I thought would be my own personal hell.
Every morning during circle time, he would sing the Mickey Mouse March, only he would change the words to “Mickey Rat.” His reason was always, “Because mice are small and rats are huge!”
He gave each and every one of us his undivided attention no matter was going on — whether it be a temper tantrum from a classmate, or me learning how to write and see what I was actually doing, or whatever issues so-and-so had with potty training. He took the time for each of us and never once did that smile leave his face.
My birthday that year was one of the first of the group. Mr. Bittle would do a small speech on how well the birthday kid was doing and always gave them a gift based on something that person was talented in. If Johnny loved race cars and ran fast in gym, for example, little Johnny got a Hot Wheels car.
My gift was a Mickey Mouse button.
“Amanda, you are a creative spirit, your drawings and stories and ultimate Disney knowledge makes you my Disney buddy and official Mouseketeer. I can see you working for Disney. Never give up on that dream.”
Mr. Bittle sadly died a few months later from cancer. A crushing blow to me. But I kept going. That Disney dream is worth the chase. Being different has its advantages.
So I made it through college and became a Paraprofessional, following in Mr. Bittle’s footsteps, and in the back of my mind, I wanted to go back to that dream.
Two years ago, I applied to Disney… and got accepted.
A 23-year-old dream come true.
Some say it’s destiny; others say it’s through hard work and determination.
Either way you slice it, it’s proof that dreams never die as long as you learn to defy the odds and keep going.
I hope in some way, I made Mr. B proud. Although I’m far from the Imagineer he wanted me to be, it’s safe to say I found my destiny.
Thank you, Mr. B.
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