This is about a terrible decision I made three years ago, and what happened to my life afterwards.
This is one of those articles I really shouldn’t be writing because of what it could do to my “personal brand.”
But you know what? F**k a personal brand.
This is who I am. This is a decision I made. If it stops one person from doing the same, my job is done.
Meeting my future wife
Five years ago I started dating a girl from my college. She was beautiful and actually treated me well (unlike every other girlfriend I ever had).
After six months of dating with little to no arguments at all, I knew I was going to marry her. She was just a beautiful soul that was easy as hell to love.
Then I got an email.
It was from Disney. They were reminding me of something called the Disney University Program — a four–eight month internship in Walt Disney World for students from around the globe. I dreamed of working at WDW since I was 16, and without much of a prayer I decided to apply.
Within 10 minutes I was invited to do a “web screening” with about 150 multiple-choice questions. 30 minutes later I was invited to schedule a phone interview — the last step of the process.
The whole damn thing took me an hour. I couldn’t believe it. I found out later that 80 per cent of people don’t get past the web-screen, and I blew through it in 30 minutes.
I studied so much for the interview that I had five pages of possible questions and answers spread out across my desk before and during the call. I never looked at them once.
Two weeks after that, I got an email that changed my entire life.
I was accepted into the Disney Program.
Because I was obsessed with the University Program, I researched the hell out of it. One of the topics that kept coming up in blogs and YouTube videos was relationships.
Virtually everybody said the same thing: relationships don’t work at Disney.
Even worse? I was accepted into the eight-month internship, which was double the time of the regular internship experience.
I just wanted a long trip away from my crappy college in the middle of Narnia (Pennsylvania).
I never once stopped to think about my girlfriend. I’d spent my whole university career silenced by Christian rules and to be honest with you I was ready to let loose. I wanted to have the college experience I’d deprived myself from.
Somehow I knew it was going to happen when I left her. I knew how I got with a little alcohol in me. I knew I wanted to experience partying and bars and clubbing and Orlando was like Las Vegas because Harrisburg, PA didn’t exactly have much.
I should’ve just called for a break, but I felt “breaks” were such a shitty justification to go out, do what you wanted, then come back to the person you “love.”
The questions would’ve always hung over that relationship until the end.
Maybe I was just too scared/prideful to admit what was about to happen.
The night I cheated
I remember the lights. I remember being with awesome people. I remember the drinks flowing. I remember that beautiful girl in front of me and taking her upstairs to make out so nobody else could see.
It all happened so quickly. Everything did. I never stopped to think about any of it.
I just did it.
It felt great in the moment. In the back of my mind though, in that drunken haze with lights flickering all around us, I knew.
I just ignored it like it wasn’t happening. But I knew.
I didn’t sleep at all that night.
I know it was only a kiss and that people have done worse, but to be honest with you it doesn’t matter if it was just a kiss or something more.
If I saw my girlfriend doing that, I’d probably feel like I was getting stabbed by something.
Which is weird, because why would I be cheating if I cared about her?
I told her about it three months later
Just like I did in the club, I decided it was best to ignore what I did the next day. I chalked it up to an honest mistake. I told myself it would never happen again.
I decided to act for months on end.
The problem was, I had already severed ties with her in my heart. Ever since I applied to the DCP, got in, then accepted their offer, I was sliding that knife against the ropes, widdling it down to almost nothing.
That’s the price I got for following my heart.
To be real with you all, this same thing happened another couple times. It was a major source of stress in my life to deal with the guilt, but I finally decided it was best to tell her over the phone.
I just needed to be real with myself and everybody again.
I’ll never forget that phone call.
She moved on
For the final four months of my program, I went from hot to cold on day-to-day basis.
Some nights I was on fire, having fun, and being the life of the party.
Other nights/days I kept thinking about my girlfriend and how it used to be. I am a super nostalgic person.
These moods mixed together better than the Long Islands I’d order at every club/bar we went to. One second I’d feel like I was on ecstasy, and the next I’d feel like I was in the studio with Drake recording “Take Care.”
We talked on and off. I even saw her when I got back home.
She told me she’d started dating some 28-year-old nurse or something (who later broke up with her because he felt she wasn’t as mature as him). That was hard to hear, but then again why the f**k did I deserve to be hurt in all this?
What I learnt
This whole experience was excruciating.
What do you do when your life’s beckoning you one way and a relationship, the other?
What do you do when every ounce of you FEELS like something is your path, but you know you’ll have to sacrifice everything to go down it?
I realised that to have a serious relationship, you must be ALL ABOUT that relationship. Every decision must be filtered through how you feel about the other person. If I would’ve done that, I’d never have left my college. I was too focused on adventure, or something.
But I also realised that if I would’ve stayed, I’d be a completely different person right now. I’d have never met my best friend from San Francisco. I’d have never met people from around the world that would’ve re-ignited my fire to travel again.
I would’ve never moved to Orlando after school, or started writing in a journal because my sister thought it’d be cool if I documented my Disney experience.
Writing in that journal ultimately led me to pursue writing in the first place.
You wouldn’t be reading any of my stuff if that didn’t happen.
And hell, the Disney College Program made me believe that incredible things were achievable. What do you want to do with your life? What’s a major goal?
To become a millionaire?
For the longest time my major goal was to work at Disney. I thought it was unattainable. I literally felt like I won the lottery when I got accepted. This was my dream, people.
Listen: Esther Perel on why happy people cheat. (Post continues below...)
After I got through my internship, things like moving to Orlando after school, or doing a cross-country road trip didn’t seem so impossible anymore.
I had hope again. I believed in life again.
Was it good to cheat, then?
Absolutely not. I f**ked someone’s life up. Do you think I’m happy about that? All to complete some sort of Vision Quest?
There was an exchange, though. I gave something up to get something else. I realised how terrible cheating is, and I never want to feel that way ever again or put someone in that situation either.
It was good for me because I’m here writing to you now, trying to set an example. It was good to me because it inadvertently gave me the confidence to accomplish incredible things. It was good to me because I know I’ll never do it again.
I learnt. Sometimes you can’t truly know until you do.
I’m happy I had this experience BEFORE I got married.
That’s why it was good for me.
Thomas is a 24-year-old Digital Nomad who loves traveling. He's been a contributor at Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, Diply, and runs his own Medium publication called The Post-Grad Survival Guide during his spare time. Thomas also has his B.S. in Marketing from Messiah College and is currently spending time with his dog and family in his hometown of Bel Air, MD.