A few nights ago I was sitting around my kitchen table with two cups of tea, a mug of hot water with lemon and two of my best friends. We spent the entire evening laughing as we caught up on thirteen whole months worth of stories, adventures, escapades and mishaps.
We had been sitting there for about an hour when Pumbaa started discussing the absolute nightmare she'd had with finding a wedding venue that doesn't insist upon seat covers. She is strongly opposed to seat covers and couldn't possibly have them at her own wedding.
Madame Adelaide joined in. She also has issues with seat covers but didn't have too much hassle when organising her wedding because it's such an intimate event.
They both nodded in agreement over the top of their steaming mugs of tea and turned to me for my opinion.
Am I supposed to have an opinion on seat covers?
It was then that it hit me.
I am a grown up.
And yes, I am expected to have an opinion on seat covers. And on the missing aeroplane. And on house locations, the education system, and whether or not Oscar Pistorius is guilty.
(I have been asked my opinion on every single one of the topics mentioned above in the last two weeks and have gazed stupidly at the person mistakenly speaking to me like an adult and changed the subject to something Disney related. For that I do apologise.)
It seems like only yesterday that my ideal night consisted of drinking too many vodka and cokes, having a deep discussion with Pumbaa about how unfair it was that every gorgeous lad we met looked straight through me to get to her, and crying to her dad that 'I'm a minger' before serenading him with Beverley Craven's biggest (and only?) hit when he picked us up at 3am. Now it involves too many hot water and lemons, having a deep discussion with Pumbaa about how unfair it was that they insisted she have seat covers, and swiftly changing the subject to dresses before waving her off at around 11pm.
I am not complaining about this change at all- I would genuinely far rather the second night (which is maybe what worries me). What I would like to know is....when did this happen?
Was it happening in the years leading up to my Disney adventure, and I was too busy playing abroad to notice? Or is there a big jump between the ages of twenty-three and twenty-four that nobody warned me about?
What I do know is that a lot of things have happened to draw my attention to my new grown-up status in the last two weeks...
1. Mowgli and Chip.
In the weeks leading up to my departure from Walt Disney World, most of my guests asked me what I was most looking forward to getting home to.
My absolute, unequivocal answer every time was Mowgli and Chip. My two baby brothers.
Within around fifteen minutes of us all being in the same room again my mum wanted a photo to mark the occasion. So we had the photo taken and I immediately posted it online.
It got a lot of attention.
And it wasn't until I went back to look at the notifications that I saw it through the eyes of the rest of the world.
My baby brothers aren't babies. They're men. Actual men.
My mum also posted the picture and somebody made a comment about 'the eldest.' None of us know who she was referring to, because I think you would have a job guessing which one of us is the eldest. It isn't obvious anymore.
This was then confirmed a few days later when the three of us went to a Christening and somebody commented that 'Mowgli must be the eldest, then Rebecca, then Chip.' Guess again.
Actually throughout the whole Christening I did have to remind myself that we're adults now. I don't know whether you find this with your siblings but whenever I'm with my brothers (perhaps because this whole grown up thing seems to have crept up on me a bit) I revert back to being an eight year old. Which means that observing me at the Christening probably would have been much like watching Elf.
I still marvel when Mowgli gives someone directions or Chip starts expressing his theories on the American government. Even going to the Christening in the car with just my two brothers threw me a little bit. When did we get old enough to do that?
I always had a theory when I was little that once we were eighteen, sixteen and thirteen we would be a real, adult family. When that didn't happen I guess I assumed it never would. And now somehow, totally out of the blue, it has.
But then Mowgli will jump out from behind the kitchen counter to make me jump and hide the pasta sauce that I was about to use and all will feel right with the world again.
This story is not actually mine, it's Pumbaa's, but it's wonderful and demonstrates exactly what I'm trying to explain: that my friends and I have suddenly grown up.
Pumbaa, one of my best friends and favourite people in the entire world, was in a meeting in which her team were attempting to come up with a name for a product targeted at young people. One of the suggestions involved using the word 'beats'. Upon this suggestion, Pumbaa's reaction was:
Ooh, yes! Beatz with a z?
At which point someone had to explain to her that the letter z does not make things cool.
She was also later told that her work location would no longer be taking her opinion into account regarding products targeted at 'young people' because she's now 25 and therefore outside of that bracket.
When did we stop being young?
On a similar note, I was recently discussing holiday plans with Dale for later this year. When I commented that we would need to take into consideration the cost of the flights, he casually responded:
Yep you need to remember that you won't get a young persons discount after May so fill your boots.
I hadn't even thought of that.
4. Sport Relief.
On Friday night I snuggled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and a cherry bakewell (welcome back to England, indeed) to watch Sport Relief with my dad. When the charity version of Greatest Day came on I was listening but was also in a battle with my new phone, so wasn't paying a huge amount of attention to the tv screen. Part way through my dad asked:
Who's that girl with the red hair, Rebecca?
Here we go, I thought. It's nice to be asked a question you'll definitely know the answer to. Like when family friends suggest a board game at Christmas then pull out the Friends quiz game. Or when an episode of Catchphrase comes on that you've already seen (that's never actually happened to me but it happened to Mowgli once and he loved impressing us all the way through then admitted the truth at the end).
Dad rewound it.
I didn't know who the girl with the red hair was.
Or the girl with the black hair.
In fact, I didn't know anyone until Baby Spice appeared.
Then I realised. I also don't know who number one is right now.
I don't even know who presents the top 40 anymore.
I am turning into my parents far too quickly.
I was in the car with Pumbaa on my way home from my first Nando's in over a year (what a treat), when her phone started ringing.
Is that your phone Pumbaa? Would you like me to answer it?
She looked at me and burst out laughing.
When she finally had enough breath to do so, she told me that no, it wasn't her phone.
It was part of the song.
6. Since I've been home I've had two brand new but fairly important characters introduced into my life. Both of them have asked me how old Dale is. And both of them (much to my disappointment) have had the same reaction.
Dale is almost 27.
Which I think is outrageously old. When did I get old enough to have a 27 year old boyfriend?!
Is that the reaction that these two new characters had?
No. To my absolute horror both of them replied:
Ah so not much of an age gap at all then. That's nice.
7. Having moved back to the UK with a lot of new items it has taken a lot of organising in my bedroom over the past two weeks to get everything sorted. Whilst sorting through my things for what felt like the one hundredth time I found the photo album that Pumbaa (who, I assure you, is not my only friend despite more mentions in this post than is socially acceptable) made me for my eighteenth birthday of the previous two years.
I made a lot of fashion faux pas (particularly in the hair department) and had a very round face between 2005 and 2007.
I had blonde hair.
If you take nothing else away from reading this post today, please take this: never, ever let me have blonde hair again. It clashes with my skin. And my eyebrows. And my eyelashes.
Whilst I can fully believe that I ever made fashion mistakes, what I cannot get my head around is that I'm cringing at pictures of 2006.
Hasn't 2006 only just finished?
No, it hasn't. Those pictures are eight years old. It is eight whole years since I turned seventeen. It is perfectly normal to look back at pictures from eight years ago and wonder what on earth you were thinking.
I am so old.
I cannot believe that I am now at an age that I can look at fifteen year olds and think (but only think- because I think you need grandchildren before you're old enough to say it out loud):
It feels like only yesterday that I was reading The Gruffalo to you and tucking your little three old self into bed at 7pm.
How are you an adult discussing studying midwifery?
As those of you who know me well will know, I have five best friends here in Essex. I am aware that I sound like a six year old saying I have five best friends, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Absolute, true friends that I know will be friends for life and that I would call at 3am without hesitating if I needed them.
Every single one of them is getting married this year.
There was a time when I knew the odd couples getting married and everyone would say 'well they are very young.'
That doesn't happen anymore.
My friends have houses, mortgages, husbands, in-laws and seat-cover-issues, and that's perfectly acceptable. Expected, even.
They are grown-ups.
And apparently, so am I.
And I'm quite excited about it.
It means I have three weddings left to attend, three hen celebrations and three new pairs of shoes to buy. It means that I have an excuse to stay in the UK for at least the next seven months, a group of fifteen year olds to discuss the teen book that I am about to attempt writing, and plenty of funny stories to tell. It means I can get cheaper insurance, rent a car for half the price and go speed dating (I won't, but it's nice to know the option's there). It means that I can seriously begin to think about what I want to do with my life and start to put it into action without the guilt of 'settling too young.'
Over the next two days I have three job interviews; jobs that are in the UK, that require me to either have a driving licence or a yearly train ticket, and that involve paying vast amounts of tax. It's a small step toward being a grown up but it's the most significant step I have ever taken in that direction.
(Just to give you an idea of how small a step it is that I'm taking, I think you should know that one requires me to take Lego with me, one involves a certain mouse, and one involves a Castle.)
I know myself well enough to know that I will never lose my sense of magic, wonder, or fun (if you have any doubt about an adult managing to maintain that may I direct you to my mum), which means that by stepping into this new, grown-up world, there will only be things to be gained.
Over the past seven years I have watched as my gorgeous, teen best friends have got amazing jobs, worked their way up steep ladders admirably, organised complicated mortgages, bought wonderful houses, fallen in love, been on once-in-a-lifetime holidays, had film-romantic proposals, planned their dream weddings, and become beautiful, strong, funny women.
Maybe this grown-up world has its own magic after all?
Of course it does.
I'm not saying in any way that I'm ready to do all of those things right now. I might find that in November I'm ready for another not-quite-grown-up adventure. Or I might not.
Either way, when the time is right, whenever that may be, I know that it will be a whole new adventure in itself; and will be just as magical and exciting as every other adventure I've ever had.
Just as long as I don't have to deal with seat covers.