I got my Bachelors degree in science in 2010 with the aspirations of becoming an environmental journalist.
I moved back home in 2011 and was unemployed for 5 months. My first job after graduating was at a dog kennel, quite literally picking up crap for a living. That was a pretty low moment for me…
Although this guy, known as Jedi Knight (how perfect is that?) was painfully adorable.
After nine months of not finding any jobs in the science field, and only freelance work in the journalism area, I quit the crap kennel job and took my life south, to the Sunshine State. It wasn’t a decision that I spent too much time on. A close friend and his boyfriend were moving into a larger place and they offered me their spare room. I said, “yep, what a concept,” packed up my room, packed up my car, Samwise the Brave, and finally left my beloved New York on a late snowy night in January.
I arrived in Florida in about two weeks, taking my time making my way down the coast, visiting family and friends. A wonderful idea for folks who drive thousands of miles on their own 😀
Now that I’ve been in central Florida for over two years, I’ve learned several things about my career situation. About three weeks after moving, I got a job at Universal Orlando, working in the most popular area of the theme park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
A year later, I left my robes and wand behind and took up the fight against the Decepticons with Nest and the Autobots.
And a year after that, I received a promotion and made my way to Citywalk. In the 2+ years that I’ve been with Universal, I’ve worked with hundreds of young people. Yes, hundreds. And yes, many of them are either in college or graduated. For the ones in school, many are studying hospitality, which makes sense, considering Orlando is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
Then there are the ones like myself. Degrees in science, law, business, marketing, education, psychology, art, English. And unable to find jobs in their fields. We work the 9-5 beat, making ends meet, but not able to save. We’re willing to work for our dreams, but aren’t finding the opportunities. Either we are over-qualified, out of school too long or the positions aren’t there. Some of us tried the public sector and others the private sector. I was betting on a government job, but that wasn’t going anywhere fast.
I tried going to Graduate School, but its just financially infeasible. I’ve been out of school for four years now, and my credentials in science are slipping. I now have more experience in merchandise and revenue operations than I do in the field I studied in. And it’s pretty disheartening to see that there are others in the same sinking boat.
So my only outlet, my single attempt to build my career over is through this blog. I never finished my minor in journalism, as I planned on getting a masters in science and writing on the side. As I work on my third year in Florida, I’ve decided that it’s time I take a step out of this career snag, and make my dream happen with whatever tools I can gather.
I’ll take a more in-depth look into this topic throughout my time on this blog, as this is an on-going issue for many of my peers with various backgrounds. I want their stories to be heard, if they wish to share them with me.
They say dreams are the windows of the soul–take a peek and you can see the inner workings… -Henry Bromel, Northern Exposure, The Big Kiss, 1991
This statement is one I live by. I take my dreams seriously. Yes, I have the weird, near-senseless dreams that seem to go all over the place. But I also have enlightening ones that have given me insight into my life, and the lives of others.
The best way for me to explain what I mean is to share a few stories with you. I took a nap before work yesterday and I had a dream. I dreamt that my car wouldn’t start. No matter how many times I turned the key, the ignition just wouldn’t catch.
I eventually woke up and went to work, only thinking of the dream in a fleeting moment. Then, as I was leaving with my colleagues, one of our employees informs us that his car won’t start. As it turns out I was the only one with jumper cables, so I went to my jeep and drove over to his car. Only when I put my keys in the ignition did I flash back to my dream.
My heart skipped a beat. Not because I was scared or shocked, but because I knew I had dreamt of this issue. I knew that this was why I had that dream. That was the thought that went through my head in the second I realized what was happening. I consider that feeling to be a Psychic Moment. Jumping the car didn’t solve the issue, and my employee had to catch a ride with someone else, which correlates to what happened in my dream.
In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen. – William S. Burroughs
There comes a point in time where coincidence is no longer an acceptable explanation for what happens. Yes, there are some things that just kind of happen, but I don’t believe they happen all that often. I think fate, faith and will bring about Psychic Moments.
While at work on this same day, a colleague and I were listening to Pandora radio while working. I asked him what his favourite Disney song was, as that was the station we were listening to. He says “You’ve Got A Friend in Me,” and I replied, “Nice choice, it would be awesome if that song played tonight.” Pandora can be quite random with its selection, if you aren’t familiar with it. Yet the very next song that came on was that Randy Newman tune. We both freaked out with disbelief and excitement. That is a Psychic Moment in my book.
If you live in the 21st century, then chances are you’ve heard of Harry Potter. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of the boy-wizard. The story is entertaining, the movies are, for the most part, well-made, and the actors who represented the tale’s characters are quite enjoyable. But I’m more of a Tolkien/C.S. Lewis fan, and I can’t help but see where Rowling may have gotten her ideas from.
However, as a former witch in the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I can honestly say that Diagon Alley is insane. Like, I walked in, following the crowd of camera-snapping coworkers, and immediately felt my mouth drop. The detail, the size, the colours, even the pavement! All of it was so much more than what I expected.
I am in no way trying to promote Universal. I enjoy working for the company, but I don’t work in the marketing department. I’m writing this tale for the people who may have doubts about how “awesome” Diagon Alley is. The media went crazy with the coverage. I saw so much of this land before the Team Member Preview that I was pretty sure I knew where everything was and how it all worked and that I wouldn’t be surprised or impressed. NOPE.
I sort of glided through the streets, trying to take in as much as I could, not because I was running out of time, but because I didn’t want to miss a single thing.There’s so much to look at, so many doors, corners, windows and sounds. (I won’t give too much away, but I was constantly looking up trying to locate the rolling thunder noise that passed over every few minutes or so. An absolute amazing effect that really immerses you into the world).
The first thing I encountered was Celestina. I’m not too familiar with her background, but she is the favourite singer of Molly Weasley, as according to the blurb of info I read in the Universal Orlando Press Release. She and her troop of ladies come out to a well-designed stage, far better than the one in Hogsmeade, as it allows for actual room and shade for people to watch, and the actors to move.
She totally blew me away with her performance. It was like a mix of a 1920s sound with the soul of Motown. Completely unexpected for an Orlando theme park, if you ask me. Of course, there’s more than one performer for Celestina, so some time later I watched a second Celestina come out, and she was just as extraordinary. Please don’t miss this show if you go!
There’s a second performance that I sadly didn’t see due to the beckoning of the other shops on the streets of Diagon. It’s a tale of the Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows. I hope to catch the demonstration sooner rather than later, for I heard amazing things, specifically from one of my friends who’s an actor with the show, and I’m sure he’s not tooting his own horn…
I won’t go into too much detail about the shops, seeing as I’d be here for hours, as I was in Diagon. I will share my favourite ones though, and give a few pointers as well.
The shops are still on the small side, which I completely expected. It gives the stores a more village-feel in a theme park setting, which isn’t easily achieved. However, the stores now have outside queues set up and ready to go, and most are covered. And, thank the heavens, there are more shops so products are split up into separate areas, versus all in one, making shopping a much more enjoyable (and less chaotic) experience.
Wiseacres is hands-down number one for me. It’s like a cross of the Noble Collection and Dervish and Banges from Hogsmeade. I returned to that store before the end of the night just to take more pictures and contemplate skipping a few meals to buy some of the collectible items, like these wonderful armillary spheres!
Some honourable mentions:
The Magical Menagerie is an adorable store. The wall of Pygmy puffs was too much cute in one section. However, there are so many things that move and make noise in this place, I’m sure I missed something, so spare some glances to the upper floors. Be sure to take a step outside to see the animals in the windows as well, since its quite hard to get a good look at them from the inside.
Ollivanders is now officially in Diagon Alley. The extension shop in Hogsmeade will remain open, as far as I know, seeing as the village will be quite busy once the Grand Opening happens. However, the interactive wands and the Ollivander Originals are located in the Diagon shop, and the wand-choosing ceremony is located in another part of the building. For those of you who don’t know, many, many Muggles mistook the Hogsmeade Ollivanders as the store, which was actually Dervish/the Owl Post.
The interactive wands are more expensive but totally worth it. There are areas throughout the streets of Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley and even Hogsmeade where witches and wizards can practice magic without worry of getting in trouble with the Ministry. Be sure to swish and flick and say the correct spell or it won’t work. SUCH AN AWESOME EFFECT.
I saw a coworker doing a spell in Knockturn Alley and it was one of the most coolest things I’ve ever seen. I also started contemplating how important paying my power bill on time was and compared that to the price of an interactive Ollivander Original.
Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, the glory of the Weasley Twins Fred and George is the first shop you encounter when you first walk into Diagon, next to Quality Quidditch.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Zonkos in Hogsmeade, and a lot of the product that I noticed (while making a quick walk-through before leaving the area) I had already seen in the Village store. However, the design of the shop was pretty awesome. There was a lot of colour and moving contraptions and even fireworks in the skylights above. Be sure to watch the Weasley Twin that stands( like 20 feet tall) outside the store…
I won’t go too in-depth on Knockturn Alley. I mention first that yes, it’s like walking into the night. The area utilizes black light on the streets and dim ones for the window displays to maintain the theme. One awesome thing Universal did was include A/C. The second you turn down the street by Florean Frotesque’s ice cream shop, the cool air is ready to greet you, and given the heat if Florida, you’ll welcome it with sweaty, open arms.
Borgin and Burkes is the main store there and its got some interesting products in there. A friend bought one of the skull-dotted scarves, which was made of some silky material, way nicer than I expected 😛 The visual displays are pretty intense as well. And that giant wardrobe thing is in there, too. I’m sure it’ll be a big photo spot. If you’re into the Death-Eater style, then I would definitely recommend hitting this place up.
Now, to the highlight of the night. The friggin Hogwarts Express!!
My expectations were all over the place with this guy. At first I was excited. An actual train? It actually moves?? There’s compartments?!? Totally awesome idea. Then I heard that the train only went one way, that there was only one show that played over and over. So not the case.
I met up with a fellow wizard from Hogsmeade and his experience from London to the Village was totally different from mine. And yes, the train does go both ways, so you can spend your whole day completely absorbed in the Wizarding Worlds. Not a terrible idea ;P
The queue is massive for this attraction so they’re ready for the crowds. The design of Kings Cross Station, from what I hear, is straight on with the original. There was even a saxophonist playing by the Prams. Such a clever add-on.
The pathway between Platforms 9 and 10 was pretty awesome, too. There’s a Porter there as well, so if you’re not sure where to look to watch witches and wizards pass through the magical wall, they’ll let you know!
Unfortunately, the Gringotts ride was still in technical rehearsal during the preview, so I didn’t get to fight alongside Harry and the gang. We were able to walk the queue though, and it was GORGEOUS.
Just look at the detail! And yes, these guys are hard at work whilst you queue about 😛
There’s more that I could mention, but I think I’ve covered a good amount of Diagon here. If you get a chance to visit, please do. If you think you can wait for the summer to end, I would. Not that I don’t want Universal to make metric tons of money, because that means more for me to go and buy wands with.
I just know that I had 3+ hours to explore the prime Wizarding shopping district, with the luxury of, at most, 5,000 other people. I had tons of room to move about without bumping into other folk, and without waiting for hours to walk into a store (although the ice cream shop had a line around the corner, so nope, there was no Butterbeer dessert for this witch).
If you want to be able to enjoy the land in decent weather with fewer Muggles, than I say wait ’til Autumn or Winter. New is fun, but its July. In Florida. It can be pretty disgusting here come 1PM.
I hope you enjoyed my goings-on about Diagon, for I genuinely enjoyed sharing it all. One day I’ll return to the streets behind London and ride the Gringotts attraction, and try all the ice creams, and get my fancy Hawthorne interactive wand and update the info here. Buuuuuuut I’m gonna wait for the crazy to end 🙂
(The actual line for Hogsmeade’s Grand Opening. Um, no thanks).