Friday, March 15, 2013

Disney Discussion: Would I do it again?

A little while ago, someone commented on my previous blog post summerizing my Externship as a Disney College Program Culinary Assistant II experience. They said:

"Thank you for posting about your experience at Disney! I just got accepted into the Culinary Program for Baking/Pastry, and I've been thinking about whether to accept it or not. I found your blog very helpful! Thank you for sharing."

I spent some time considering their words, and what I could say to them; especially since I don't know if my previous comments left them with a positive or negative view of what could be in store for them. And so, while I have no way of knowing if this will get back to the original commenter, I thought it was worth sharing with everyone else. Because I care deeply about this, and want future College Program participants to succeed. Because it is so very worth doing. Better yet, it is most definately worth doing well.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Dear Anonymous,

I would like to thank you for your feedback. As hoped, lableing the blog posts with the Disney College Program made it possible to be found by others who might be wanting to know more about the program from someone who has been there.

Before I embarked on my own journey, I scoured the internet for videos, letters, articles, blog posts, anything that I could find that might give me some idea of what I was getting myself into. While I found several "apartment tour" videos by generic CP cast members, I found very little about the culinary porgram itself.

And that was why I vowed before I left that I would put something out there for those that follow to find; which was intended, of course, to be helpful.

I don't know if you will read this reply, or if it matters to you, but reading your response made me immediately think, "Ack! Wait, what did I write?? Did they get good advice?? I don't want to mess up someone else's opportunities or experience!!"

So, with that in mind, I hope that you were able to read in to all of my disclaimers and caveaughts about how my particular experience turned out, and that it doesn't reflect necessarily negatively on the Disney College Porgram itself.

I was the first and only Baking & Pastry student from my school accepted into the CP program, and it was difficult to know what I was getting myself into. Though I had completed all of my B&P courses, and worked in two bakeries previously, obviously Disney is a whole new level of excellence.

The work itself was not difficult or overly demanding. But I was not in the best place in my life to go when I did. So, if you have two small kids and a husband in a strained marraige waiting at home and you find yourself pregnant while trying to do this... then I'd seriously suggest you reconsider if this is really what you want to do right now. But, that would be a HUGE coincidence, and not likely how your experience would go.

Of the other Culinary CP that arrived when I did, there was one other B&P student. She was placed where I had wanted to be and doing what I had hoped to do, and she did spectacularly. She came from a stronger background, having grown up in her mother's bakery. She also graduated from her school. And, she clearly did much better on her interview because her foundation was stronger, so she was placed better.

I am so very proud of her. She is living the dream with three of my other roommates from my CP days who all became full-time Cast Members.

Also, there has not been a single day that has gone by that I havn't felt anxious and remourseful about how things turned out for me. I spent most of January in shock. I couldn't believe it was all over, and I kept replaying every moment over and over in my mind; wishing I could go back and get it right this time.

And, I miss everyone I worked with in that Bakery. They are some of the most talented, kind, hard working people I have ever had the pleasure of associating with. And if I was given the opportunity to work there again, I would be there at the drop of a hat.

So, bottom line, I think anyone who has an opportunity to do so, should persue participation in this program. I'd advise them to evaluate if they want to do it at that time or not. Because, you can always re-apply or go as an actual intern instead of a CP later. But if you're in a place to do it, then I encourage you to try.

It was one of the hardest, most amazing, life altering expereinces of my adult life. I wish circumstances could have been tweaked better... But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Incidentally, I plan on going back once I'm finished with Culinary School. And since I'll be taking my family with me, there won't be anything left to keep me away.

Besides, that's where dreams come true.

Cheers.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Disney discussion: Shoulda, coulda, woulda, didn't

Wed, Dec 12, 2012

Before I embarked on this incredible journey as a Cast Member and College Program Culinary II intern with Walt Disney World, I had many reservations. So many people were very excited for me to have this opportunity. I appreciated their support and praise, and was thankful for their encouragement and advice.

But I also became keenly aware of the magnitude of responsibility such an opportunity presented. I knew this would be a demanding experience, and that I would likely be taxed far beyond any other employment or educational experience I had been through before in my life.

I was afraid that I would not be up to the task of completing the course or representing my school. Well wishers assured me that I would be fine.

And with a nervous smile, I jumped in feet first with goals for excellence and worst case scenario contingency plans.

The actual experience was familiar yet skewed into new surroundings. I had teammates, we had a set production menu for the day, and Chefs to report to. But the experience continued each day for twice as long as a normal class, instead of once or twice a week for a few hours. The menu did not change from week to week.

I could not familiarize myself with the recipes before or between production with recipe cards. The recipes were locked in the office, and I didn’t want to appear to be stealing company secrets by studying or copying them. Also, only the formulas were written, not the procedure.

But the worst part of all of this was that we didn’t get to taste what we made. The Chefs did not sample our product or critique it so we can learn what we have done correctly and what needs to change.

I had not realized before this experience how much I rely upon that constant feedback to hone my job performance and gain confidence that I am on the right track.

Even more than that, not tasting the product or receiving evaluation and feedback from the Chefs left me adrift without my main asset.

As a Culinary Student I created wonderful working relationships with my Chefs who became familiar with my work and the high quality of my products as well as my work ethic.

I would double check recipes and take precise measurements. I liked to get my mise en plas assembled before production so that I can completely focus on the process and finished product. I may take a few minutes more to get something done than those buzzing around me, but I made fewer mistakes, made consistently superior products, and was generally worth waiting for.

I work clean, methodic, and steady. I’ve always thought that was the most important thing.

Without knowledge of any of that the only knowledge of my ability or performance is based on did I or did I not clock in early. Did I or did I not work as quickly as those around me, who might I add, had been making these same products every day for years. And did I or did I not make product that looked about right. Not that anything I made was held up next to anyone else’s to at least see how the products compare.

So… I was measured and found wanting.

This experience changed my entire perspective of the Culinary Arts profession.

This is a business.
And the all mighty bottom line is more important than anything else as a deciding factor in what goes on in the kitchen.

In a high volume bakery, speed is much more important than accuracy or quality. As long as it looks about right and no one complains, then crank out as much as you can as fast as you can do it. And as long as we have enough product to fill client orders and keep their shelves stocked, then we’re doing a good job.

This experience made me realize a lot of things.

For example, perhaps I don’t want to be a Baker.

*gasp!!!*

While I do enjoy making tasty products, it’s the decoration and crafting of the finished product that excites me.

I like the variety of production that comes with a new challenge each day instead of making the same, undecorated, unfinished, naked products.

I think that was an important thing to realize before considering opening up a bakery of my own where the filled cupcake and cereal treat trays are what makes or breaks the business.

I spent much of my last few weeks fantasizing about what I would do differently if I were given the chance to create a company and run my own kitchen.
I would focus on special orders and food sculptures.
The artistry and challenge would keep me coming back for more.

Those in my employ would be paid by the project like a contractor and not just by the hour. The quality and consistency of their products would determine their pay rate. The better they work, the more money they make.

Also, when they complete their work, they can leave. So those impatient people who want to just get out of there? If they get the work done and get it done right, then they can go home early, and good for them. But if they mess up then they have to do it again.

This will help preserve resources since no one wants to do something over again, so they’ll take the time to do it right.

Also, if they take their time to get something just right and get the product done, or if they are easily distracted and keep wandering off or something, then I won’t be out any additional money while they were screwing around. And since the quality of their work determines their per project pay rate, they will take the time to make amazing products. The all mighty dollar will motivate the workers and that bottom line will be preserved.

And the need to keep clients coming back will encourage growth and change. And that will keep me coming back as well. And at the end of the day, if you don’t like what you do, or you don’t have room to grow, then you’ll quit and do something else.

And no one wants to start all over again. So I’d better take the time to do things right.

And that is okay with me.

Disney week 10: Finale. (Finally?)

I never even finished this last one at the time. Here is what I wrote:

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Wed, Dec 12, 2012

As I write my final report of this experience, I am in the middle of driving home from Florida to Indiana.

Okay, I’m not driving right this moment.

That would be dangerous.

And probably beyond my mental capacity at the moment.

The end of my program came to an abrupt end. At the conclusion of my second to last week was the first day for two new college program students. There had also been a new professional intern the week or so before, and the other college program person had extended their program as well.

So with four extra people in the kitchen, the Chef pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to wrap things up a week early since he just has too many people on the payroll right now, and maybe it would be best for me in my "condition".

So, that became my last day of work. I thanked the Chef and finished working. Oddly, that was the hardest day I had experienced work wise in the entire program. And sadly, my favorite coworker was not there that day. So I promised to come back and say goodbye before I leave.

Returning the following day was bitter sweet.

It was sad to be there for a final time.

I timed my visit to be about when their lunch break would be so I wouldn’t bother them at work. When I walked into the cafeteria to say goodbye, said coworker, my Pueto Rico Papi, looked up and said “Oh, Mami, I’ve been crying all day. I haven’t gotten any work done because I’ve been crying and these one [gesturing to the new girls] is too slow.” He even offered to help me drive back to Indy.

After a few farewell hugs and pictures, I departed with as much professional dignity as I could muster.

And I miss all of them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

*sad sigh*

My final days in the Disney College Program were filled with dread to leave because I knew I would never have an opportunity like this again, and impatience to return home to my family.

It took a few days to wrap up loose ends; make sure all of the paperwork and stuff was completed with each i dotted and t crossed. I turned in all uniforms, keys, and ID cards. I spent a couple fun nights saying goodbye to dear friends, and went back to my tiny apartment and packed some more.

Oh, and let's not forget the Christmas Shopping that needed to be completed!

I still feel guilty for missing both of my young children's birthdays. I was determined to make this the best, most generous Christmas ever.

Basically all of my tiny paychecks went to room & and board or presents for friends and family. What was the point of this whole ordeal if I didn't get to spoil my children, nieces, and nephews, and everyone who picked up the slack for me while I was away?

(And let me tell you, the loss of the cast member discount when I got back to real life was painful. lol)

But my main regret was that I didn't get to see anything of New Fantasyland before I left. And it doesn't seem likely that I will ever get such an opportunity to see it again. *sigh*

c'est la vi.

I miss a lot of it now. Particularly my best friends.

It was such a wonderful opportunity, and a beautiful nurturing place to live. ...

I brought home a couple house geckos with me that I caught outside my apartment before I left. They have adapted to their new terrerium, and grow fat and lazy under my lavish care.

*small smile* I look at them all the time with mixed feelings of accomplishment and sadness. Not just for now, but for opportunities lost all over. *staring whistfully into the distance*

...The drive home was an expereince all unto itself. I dislike roadtrips and closed in spaces. And I've never driven anywhere close to that far by myself before. But I knew it would have been so much more difficult to make room for another person to help drive me home. But more than that, I couldn't bare to have to talk about everything that's happened yet with no way out to get some peace. *sigh*

So, it took the drive slowly, stopped when I needed to, and listened to lots of showtunes. Each time I stopped for gas it seemed to be at least 10 degrees colder, and I was like, "Why the heck am I still driving north???!?" *laughs softly*



The hardest part has been the welcoming well wishers who want to hear all about the experience as they smile at me expectantly.
It is uncomfortable.
What can I say?
Pretend it was the best thing that ever happened to me?
Cop out and joke that it was humid?

I've mostly given mixed responses like, "It was an incredible opportunity. It was extreme and difficult. I am so thankful I was able to be there. I would do it again in a heartbeat. But hopefully not anytime soon, because it is just so wonderful to be home."

So that's the truth of how I feel. And now you know something of the sad details that played out in the background.

Disney week 9: Revealed. The raw truth.



Written: Wed, Dec 5, 2012

So, we have made it to the end, and are coming to a close on this life altering journey. As I reviewed the weeks prior to this one, all of the signs were there. I started out strong and optimistic. Things began to get tough but I put a smile on my face and muscled through it. Calamity struck, but I tried to laugh it off and kept going.

Things were getting pretty tough and I found myself lonely and questioning what to do next. I had to re-evaluate why I was here and what I was going to do about it. The fa├žade was gone; this job is hard and the experience isn’t much like I’d anticipated it would be. Then I dropped the “everything will work out for the best” act and talked about the screw ups I’d made, and how that was affecting my performance and ability to persevere.

Finally, the confessions of how my health had been playing a major role in preventing me from reaching the potential this opportunity had afforded me.

I didn’t make it all the way through this experience without a complete mental and physical breakdown.

I feel ashamed that I shared so much of the unhappiness of this experience. But I am also glad because there would be no way to capture the raw feelings and the truth behind them without doing so in the moment.

So what happened?

Well, my breakdown culminated in the medical result of a miscarriage. I am no longer or not pregnant.

*long pause*

Sorry to share something so personal with you. But it is the truth and is not of little consequence.

Everyone at work have been so kind, and more than fair in their treatment of me. Either out of mercy or punishment they cut the remaining hours for my final two weeks to a handful of working days. I have gratefully accepted this, and it is only because of the eased burden that I can even consider sticking it out one last week instead of packing it in now and running home with my tail between my legs.

The tragedy and perhaps irony (it’s so hard to determine irony sometimes) of the situation is that now that I’m about done with the program, and after all of the sadness, that I actually get to shine.

It is only now that the nausea and everything is gone. I no longer feel constantly ill. I have grown confident in certain recipes and tasks that I am more familiar with, so my proficiency and speed have increased.

This passed week, I finished the spot in record time and impressed even the fastest worker with my speed. I haven’t made any mistakes to note, and I haven’t been tardy. There was even a day when I arrived early and was told they’d changed my schedule, so I wasn’t even scheduled that day. So I finished my Christmas shopping and spent the rest of the day at The Magic Kingdom while I had the chance.

I am so very thankful for the courtesy afforded to me in what appears to be an opportunity to finish out my program.

Everyone one else here seems to be surprised that my allotted time out here was so short by comparison to the average term. But I have never been more thankful for this because I know I would not last a day longer, much less six more weeks.

As a coworker put it, “This experience has been different [for me] than most, and not for the best. But part of being a professional is to get back in there and follow through despite the consequences.”

Or something like that.



(...and yes. I drew that.)

Disney week 8: Revealed. The Nervous Breakdown.

Again, I wrote this several weeks ago. But I'm ready to open a dialogue to discuss it now.

Finally, I admit the personal, intimate, details to my nervous breakdown.

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Tues, Nov 27, 2012

While preparing our belated Thanksgiving feast over the weekend, one of my roommates put in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” which talks a lot about career, drive, and the sacrifices you might and maybe shouldn’t make as you work your way to the top.

The main character confides to a coworker that her personal life is hanging by a thread.
His response is “That happens when you start to do well at your job.
Call me when your entire life goes up in smoke.
That’s when it’s time for a promotion.”

That pretty much sums up my feelings and experiences this passed week and especially today.

Another example from the movies (hey, it’s okay, I work at Hollywood Studios after all!):

In every thematic drama there is a point about 2/3 the way through the movie where the main character is at a major crossroads.
You know they are either going to make a life changing decision or move, or they’re going to mess it all up and leave you yelling at the screen about what they should have done instead.
Or both.
That is where I am right now.

Anyone that knows me knows that I run on Hawaiian Time. Anyone who has been to the islands knows that things are more laid back and anyone that arrives less than five minutes late is actually early. But then we stay as long as is needed to get the job done, we do a great job, everyone loves us.

But that doesn’t work in the business world here on the mainland. And Disney doesn’t care if you’re one minute late, an hour late, or didn’t go in at all; it is all bad, goes on your permanent record and you’re done for. And even though I plan to leave like an hour early for work, those little things pile up that cause delays and suddenly you’re racing through traffic and trying to politely dash through the parking lot to clock in on time.

Add morning sickness to this and there can be no more wiggle room to getting to work on time.

...

I’d been doing so well! *frustraited sigh*

I finished work on the Spot the other day in record time! I was working with the fastest worker in our group and I had to wait on him to get some things ready because I had already completed my tasks. Several days in a row I got compliments from my manager that I had done a really good job that day.

We overcame unimaginable odds in terms of the massive amounts of production we had to accomplish each day, and worked later and later to get everything done.

While I was at work of course I was AT WORK and working my tail off. I didn’t wander away from my station or start messing with my phone, or just disappearing for maybe ten minutes at a time as some of my coworkers are known to do. I wouldn’t even stop for a drink until I had all of my production done at that point. But I still clocked in a minute or two late and more than once. And that is all that matters.

As the week came to a close, I got sick during the middle of the shift and rushed out of the room. I took care of stuff, came right back, re-washed my hands and went back to working.

Before I even said anything, my supervisor came over and said she heard I was sick, but she couldn’t send me home because I already had a report against me and I’d be fired.

Really?

I didn’t even request to go home or anything, yet I felt like I'd been hung out to dry.

Through the preceding days I would be stumbling to work feeling like I couldn’t take another step, but knowing that we were so busy I just couldn’t call in and give up on them. I’m part of the team and they need all hands on deck to make it through.

But I comforted myself that if worst came to worst, at least they’d know I tried and I wouldn’t get in trouble if they sent me home early. But now I can’t leave? Wasn’t it better that I came in and did what I could? No. I guess that is not better than nothing.

The harsh reality: one minute or one day, you are still docked.

So, this morning I got to work. Started heading in to costuming, and got really sick. Someone told me to just call in and go home. By the time I pulled myself together I knew I would be late, since there is that long walk and hundreds of people between me and that time clock. So I gave in. I called in and I went home.

And the whole way home I was like, this is crazy! I should call them and tell them what happened and ask them if I could still come in. But they would have already gotten someone to cover my shift by then, and I didn’t want to trouble them further. And I was too scared to cause more of a scene by calling and bothering them. So I went home and stayed there.

...

*deep breath*

...

I had a nervous breakdown. I could already envision the introduction of my biography: “In the Fall of 2012, Dalyn had a mental break and was admitted into a suicide watch ward.” …

While I was bent over the sink of our apartment vomiting up my meal for the day which was now streaked with blood in it, I considered going to a hospital.

Surely that would be proof enough of something or other, right? ...Then I could go home and get some help, and not just be labled a failure or a quitter, right?

When someone starts considering ways to create their cry for help, that is when things get real. Fast.

...

And it scared me.

I can’t pretend that working here isn’t a big head game. I have spent most of the week coming to grips that I just don’t have “what it takes to hack it” in this industry.

This brings my education and my career choices into question.

Do I drop out of school?
Do I quit before they fire me or something?

It’s so hard to understand everything said to me at work sometimes because I wasn’t smart enough to learn Spanish before I came out here.

I feel like I have had this amazing opportunity down here and I just blew it.

I can’t blame my failing health for it completely. An unplanned pregnancy right now is just REALLY bad timing. I wish I could just reset to my last save point before all of this started and just do it all again.

...

When following a competition reality show, there always seems to be someone who has a crisis meltdown and like walks out of the competition. I understand it now.

The competition to get into this position was so fierce. I wanted to do it so badly. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to leave my children for so long. I was afraid I wouldn’t remember everything I learned in school and bring shame. I was afraid that I would mess it all up.

But I went for it and told myself that it was precisely BECAUSE I was so scared that this would be a good experience for me. I should learn a lot about myself and regardless of how long I am able to be here, I need to make the most of every moment of it.

Well, I’ve done all of that.
The fear?
Oh yes.
I deal with all of that not day to day but just moment to moment.

Was the experience good for me?
I knew that I would regret it forever if I gave up before I even started.

But my problem is that I just don’t feel adequate enough to be here anymore, and I just don’t want to waste their time or something.

And I don’t have any witty comments or scenarios to get me through this one.
So I’m at a quandary.

My personal life does indeed feel like it’s hanging by a thread tonight.
And it looks like my entire career is about to go up in smoke.
And there is nothing I can do about it either way tonight.

So I wrote this report. I’ll submit it and go to bed. I’ll get to work early tomorrow. They’ll either send me packing or send me to a station to work. At least then the worrying will all be over and my fate will be decided for me. What more can I do tonight?

In last minute news, we switched from these “Happy Chef” logo baseball caps to the new kufi style hats. Here’s what the old logo looked like. I’ve liked it all along.