My last visit to Disneyworld was a long time ago. I won’t reveal the year, but let’s just say it was back when Disney only had about four animated characters total (okay…11 if you count Snow White’s friends).
We were standing in a plaza (because Disney has a thing for plazas). We were part of an enormous crowd (because mobs of people have a thing for Disney). Suddenly we heard screaming. Maybe a better word is shrieking. I halfway expected glass to begin shattering.
The crowd parted a bit to reveal, down there amidst all the adult knees, a tiny, terrified kid, perhaps five, wailing and jabbering words I couldn’t understand. He appeared to be of Indian descent, but even with the language barrier it was clear to all what he was saying: “I’m lost. I don’t recognize any of these knees. The leg I have been hanging on to is not the leg I thought it was.”
Photo by Satish Krishnamurthy, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial license
A kindly woman bent low to speak words of comfort. This only sent the child into greater panic! So a big man reached low, grabbed the little guy, lifted him high in the air, and, in one motion, set him on top of a concrete wall. This startled the boy so much that for a moment or two he stopped his squalling.
Then, as he frantically scanned the plaza from his lofty perch, we watched his expression morph from sheer terror to absolute joy. There were his relieved parents, waving, calling his name, making their way to him. What followed was a great Disney-esque reunion scene.
I share this story because I can relate to that little kid. Changing careers later in life is scary. It’s like finding yourself in a forest of knees. I’m separated from what I know and surrounded by work opportunities that are utterly foreign. I feel hemmed in by skills I didn’t learn years ago, and now wish I had. All about me are countless, unfamiliar options that need to be researched and pondered.
No doubt you’ve been in a similar unnerving place (maybe you’re there now). If it’s not career change, it might be illness, financial crisis, or relational woe. That intimidating expense in front of you, the large uncomfortable conversation that you can’t get around. Amidst the knees, you sense danger all about. You can’t quite see your way forward. You feel lost. You just want to scream.
Two things about this incident of the frightened little guy at Disney encourage me as I stand here today among the knees. One, though the boy felt utterly lost, he wasn’t. All the time, his parents were only a few yards away. He just couldn’t see that reality…until someone helped him get a better view.
Two (and here I’m speculating, but I suspect accurately), the boy’s terrifying moments in that plaza were only a blip within a longer, magical Disney experience. All these years later, I remember his few moments of terror. I bet he only recalls a trip with Mom and Dad to a really fun and happy place.