In March 2003 my PSHE class was set the task of writing an essay on where we hoped to find ourselves in ten years.
It wasn't supposed to be fantasy, we weren't allowed in any way to use our imagination (God forbid let children be creative) : it had to be a realistic view of what we wanted to achieve in the ten years leading to our twenty-fourth birthdays.
I still clearly remember writing mine and presenting it confidently to my form tutor, with absolutely no doubt as to whether it would come true. It would. It was what I wanted more than anything and I would make it come true.
Yep, by the time I was twenty-four I was definitely going to be….
An engaged travel agent.
Why would I ever want to be anything else?
I can still see the image I had in my head that day. I pictured walking home from work in the Going Places uniform, letting myself into a flat where my lovely fiancé ( a specific lad that I sat with in Science and who I still bump into in Asda every now and again) would just be serving up Spaghetti Bolognese and a glass of wine (because by the time I turned twenty-four I’d definitely like wine), and we’d romantically eat it over a candle lit table before meeting our friends (the same best friends from school- with their same current boyfriends) for a sophisticated evening of wine tasting and French films.
My teacher put on that ‘Ooh, fancy!’ voice that they do when they’re trying to be down with the kids and talk about boyfriends and said ‘An engaged travel agent! Well that sounds very good, Rebecca, I think you could do that.’
‘I will’, I replied confidently.
And now here we are. Ten years later. March 2013.
I did walk home from work on Friday night and let myself into my lovely flat.
But instead of sitting down to a romantic home-cooked meal I dashed around to get ready to go out for dinner.
I did meet my friends but they were new friends- friends that didn't all grow up in Essex and go to my school and remember the time that I wore bin bags all day for charity (why do these things seem like such a good idea at the time?!), we did have a few drinks (pomegranate lemonade for me though because- shock horror- I still don’t like wine), and we did watch a film. But it was in English. And not quite so sophisticated as some French films.
Okay it was Aladdin.
And instead of spending my day at work booking people’s holidays, I spent my day at work on people’s holidays.
I walked in to work with the sound of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes floating through the air, and on my way bumped into Duffy the Disney Bear, a few princesses and a lot of Minnie ears.
Throughout my day I was working directly opposite Alice in Wonderland, who was meeting people who had travelled from all over the world to see her.
To my left was Mary Poppins, doing the same thing.
Christopher Robin lives in the building that was to my right, and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were in there playing for the day.
I then walked home through the crowded audience watching a Canadian band, listening to their music and dodging dancing couples as I did so.
On Saturday morning I got up early and made my way to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
In March 2003 that world was, as it is to most people my age, a big deal. Back then it only existed in people's imaginations but it very much existed. It came with me to the beach in the summer, the fire side in the winter, on buses, trains, planes and car journeys.
Since I've been in Florida it has given me the opportunity to speak to people from all over the world that I would otherwise have nothing in common with.
Then on Saturday it became real.
I walked straight into my own imagination and could see, touch, smell, hear and even taste the things that I had imagined since I first found Hogsmeade in 2003.
All I could think the whole time was:
This came from one woman's mind.
How did one person manage to create a whole, wonderful, believable, magical world that almost everyone can relate to?
Just as I was marveling at this, I walked into the next world along from Harry Potter's, and my mind was once again blown.
Dr Seuss World.
I walked along and took in all my favourite characters, quotes and images from The Cat In The Hat, The Lorax, The Grinch and, my favourite book of all time ever- Oh! The Places You'll Go.
Those of you who know me well will know that the child in me lives quite close to the surface anyway. But as I walked through a second world of characters that had- until now- only lived in my imagination, I felt the child in me wriggling to get out.
I could quite happily have galloped around Dr Seuss World shouting 'Wow!' and 'I want that!' at everything, knocking over other guests and jumping right in everyone's way.
Luckily, the Nanny in me took over just in time and I told myself I could have a Cat In The Hat biscuit if I promised to calm down for the rest of the day.
Since working in Disney World I have learnt a lot about Walt Disney, and he has recently joined J.K Rowling and Dr Seuss on my list of heroes.
The idea of creating a world in which you can meet the characters of your imagination and be physically inside the worlds that had, until then, only existed in your mind just blows me away.
I have met a surprising number of people working here that love Disney for the rides rather than for the characters or the setting. For me, Disney World has always been about the characters. For me, it's about dreams literally coming true. This is a world in which you can actually meet Cinderella and Prince Charming, a world where it's normal to bump into Mickey Mouse walking down the street, and where children get to meet their heroes every single day of the week.
Most of all, this is a place where imagination is the most important thing ever.
If it wasn't for imagination, the characters would never have existed, the park itself would never have existed, and the magic would not continue to make people's lives every single day.
I wonder, had I been allowed to use my imagination and creativity that day in March 2003, whether I still would have said that by twenty-four I'd be an engaged travel agent?
I wonder whether I would have said that my life would involve being friends with Mickey Mouse, spending days off in Hogsmeade and my evenings at Cinderella's Castle?
Also probably not.
Walt Disney once famously said 'You're dead if you only go for kids. Adults are only kids grown up anyway.'
So I'm not the adult I thought I would be. I'm not engaged, I don't own a flat, like wine or speak French. But my world is happy and magical and exciting every day.
Childhood is wasted on children anyway, right?
I'm taking mine now :)