The following is a blog post from a Feature Writing class by a student who wrote all semester about Disney World through promotional virtual experiences of others. The first introductory paragraph was used on earlier posts. The second, was an intro on the final submission – after he got to experience Disney with his brother – who suffered an early childhood illness that left him severely learning disabled.
Trapped in the small town of Castleton, Vermont by a worldwide pandemic; Luke McGee is desperate for a change of scenery. In a last ditch effort to experience life outside of his quarantine, he takes to reviewing the strange world of virtual tours/experiences. He tries Living Vicariously.
No longer trapped in the small town of Castleton, Vermont; Luke McGee has finally found a change of scenery. Experiencing life outside his quarantine for the first time in years, he is no longer obligated to review the strange world of virtual tours/experiences, no longer must he try Living Vicariously.
As I sat next to my little brother, laser-beams whisked past our heads. Our transport jostled, sped, and whipped around the corridors of the massive base, always just narrowly escaping the enemy in hot pursuit.
His eyes were as wide as planets, his head whipping around as fast as our transport to view the circumference of the adventure surrounding him: he was really there.
Though my head too followed the paths of laser beams and robotic villains, they primarily stayed glued to Evan, living vicariously through his wonder.
When our transport finally landed safely back on Earth, he let out a shout of exaltation, burrowing his head into my shoulder as I recounted to him exactly what had just happened. It was then that the magic was no longer real to only him.
Having lived vicariously through a screen for the past two years and having written about it for the past semester, actually getting to go to Walt Disney World felt exactly like what the marketers want it to: a fantasy. A dream from which I would surely wake up at any moment, maybe after this ride or that meet-and-greet. But it was real.
Though the experience would have only been half as wondrous without my little brother Evan, who has profound special needs and the mental capabilities of a three to four year old.
For the rest of us, places like Disney World tend to lose their magic once we see beyond the pixie dust. The characters are just costumes, the rides are merely a bundle of technology, the lands are just products of construction. But not for Evan. For Evan, it is always real.
We could all take a page out of Evan’s book. We are raised not to trust our imagination, our love for the fantastical side of things. From a young age we are told that our imaginary friends are no longer real or that we’ve outgrown the toys we were once glued to. We are taught to live vicariously, maybe through the children we may go on to have or through television shows and movies. But why vicariously find magic when it is right at our fingertips?
Evan has never considered the option that most are forced into. For Evan, his Thomas the Tank Engine collection is an extension of himself, his unabashed love for children’s shows inspires him to create his own, and Mickey Mouse is real.
Though those of us who happen to be neurotypical cannot return to this childlike state of wonder, we can approach it with a different knowledge.
Within the pandemic, the mere act of living itself became vicarious, a mentality which we still grasp. We retreated to the world of social media and art to cope with a horrifying reality. We lived through others and through the art they created; and we were embarrassed.
The number of times someone has told me that they are embarrassed to watch shows aimed more towards children, or purchase a toy, or simply play video games is staggering. We inherit from generations before us a toxic mentality that escapism, especially forms deemed as “childish,” is something to be avoided. But that could not be further from the truth.
To appreciate magic, to experience wonder, to escape into a book or a film or a world is a gift, a gift only humans can access.
We create galaxies and worlds but do not allow ourselves to live in them
And after two years of living vicariously, distant from the art and the work: I finally allowed myself to live in them.
For a couple of days, Evan’s magic was my magic. I was really in space, that was really Mickey, those fireworks were really magic, I was really here.
And no longer will I live vicariously.
I will live each moment as though it is real, for it is.
And I think that you should too.