Remembering ‘Steamboat Willie’

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

I must admit a sad and embarrassing fact: I keep a Rolodex of mostly useless trivia filed away in some dark corner of my brain, just on the off-chance I may be able to use it someday.  Last Thursday just happened to be one of those days.  Nov. 18th is, and always will be, the birthday of Mickey Mouse.  Indeed, on this day in history, Walt Disney released his original cartoon of “Steamboat Willie”.

How many of you remember that?  I have seen it referenced in Disney memorabilia, and always marveled at the manner in which the mouse has changed since then, and yet remained true to his core self.  (I know, I know… he is not “real”; but I dare anyone to take a walk down Main Street, USA in Orlando and not feel his presence everywhere!)

Mr. Disney perfected the art of reinvention: keeping his characters predictable and loveable as always, yet somehow enabling them to go through increasingly sophisticated changes as cartoon technology evolved.  The result has always been stunningly positive, and it is this very point that we can apply to our own lives. 

Reinventing oneself is not at daunting of a feat as it seems. We often engage in such behavior without even recognizing it.  Do you remember changing your major halfway through your college experience? Perhaps you had defined yourself as a Sociology person, only to realize that Physics was your true calling.  This is a prime example of having remained true to yourself, still possessing all the character traits that comprised your wonderful personality, but just updating some aspects of the person you hoped to become.

Many of us are reluctant to reinvent ourselves.  We fear that others may judge us, or that the new version may not be as successful as the current model.  Many times we become entrenched in a meal plan or a fitness regimen, and remain complacent because it is either working satisfactorily, or it is convenient. I am not implying that either of those is unimportant.  Rather, I am suggesting that each of us take a moment to recognize the brave frontier that Walt Disney forged by morphing his beloved character from “Steamboat Willie” to Minnie’s boyfriend.  Take a step outside of your current world, and ponder what aspects you might wish to take in a different direction.

The time of year that athletes refer to as “the off-season” provides an ideal time to change up their workout routines.  Professional football players might take up cycling in the spring. Baseball players may enjoy skiing in the winter.  They are still dedicated athletes at their core; however, rather than remain inactive, they have merely chosen to reinvent themselves in the months when they are not currently engaging in their professional sport. In a similar fashion, many individuals reinvent their culinary passions based on the availability of certain seasonal foods.  Bakeries that become experts in spring strawberry shortcakes can also set the standard for pumpkin cheesecakes in the cooler months of autumn.  Still chefs at heart, they simply try on new recipes, or a new persona if you will, by keeping things fresh and dynamic.

If you have ever contemplated moving in a new direction, with fitness or food choices, now may be the perfect time. Holidays will soon be upon us, and before we know it, New Year’s Resolutions will be on everyone’s agenda.  Take a lesson from Good ol’ Mickey and keep evolving.  I will celebrate his birthday every November 18th; try celebrating a new you!