When I turned 15, my not-so-fairy grandmother gave me the gift of interior decoration: she offered to redo my bedroom. As a girl who was entering the throes of her teenage years, I was very excited to get away from the pastel flowers I’d had for 10 years and ready to move into something more grown up.

So, in my grown-up state, I chose red, black, and white. Yes. The colors of a checkerboard. And that’s actually what my bedspread looked like. A checkerboard bedspread and polka dot curtain. Three white walls and one red wall.

See, when we began redecorating my bedroom, my grandmother called in reinforcements. And reinforcements were her interior designer: Barbara. And Barbara was certain that I needed a bold red wall for my new grown-up, teenage room. And I? LOVED it. I thought it was funky and a bit outrageous and I couldn’t wait to fill up my bulletin board with pictures of my fun high school experience.

And lo, the years went by until one day I was 18, getting ready to go to college. My red wall was barely visible beneath the pictures, cards, and magazine collages made by various friends. I had three slinkies stretched across my ceiling, twinkly lights (that had been stolen from the town square gazebo on an 8th grade dare) strung up on the walls, and streamers hanging from my ceiling fan. It had taken 4 years, but I’d created a space for myself. Somewhere, in between high school and part time jobs and getting braces removed and having a permanent retainer put in, through football seasons and college applications, I’d started to grow up.

Enter my stepdad. One afternoon, two weeks before I left for college, he walked into my room with a big box and said, “Alright. Make it look like you never lived here.” I laughed, thinking he was kidding. (You’d think I’d have learned after 16 years of living with the man). Nay, he was serious and I set to work, tearfully sorting through my childhood and my in-between years and wondered what was going to happen next. I was terrified of college; somewhere deep inside I knew I wasn’t going to do well. I could never picture myself graduating with my friends. I knew my life would go in a different direction, but that was a bit too scary to think about.

So I packed. I boxed up the yearbooks and the dried flowers, packed away the collages and the slinkies that were stretched beyond belief. And by the time I was finished, I re-discovered my red wall. My red wall in my empty, sad, childhood bedroom.

Tonight I am spending a lazy night at home. I’m on my eleventy billionth load of laundry and I’ve been snacking on the same bar of chocolate all weekend long, while working my way through the entire series of Sex and the City. In short, it’s a weekend of guilty pleasures and naps. A minute ago, I was taking a bite of chocolate when, somehow, my permanent retainer broke. I was sitting on my sofa with chocolate in my mouth and a permanent retainer that was halfway broken. Clearly, this wouldn’t do. So I grabbed the offending poke-y bit of metal, and tugged. Out came my entire permanent retainer, a very small bit of metal wire that had resided behind my lower teeth for the last 13 years. And, with that, the last remnant of my childhood was packed in the metaphorical box.

This is it, y’all. I’m a grown up. I have a real live job with real live deadlines. I have a budget and a savings plan. And the funny thing is this: it’s not really super scary. Yeah, I have my moments of meltdown and I have my moments of ohmygakwhatamidoingwithmylife. But overall? It’s good. It’s just very good. And I think, when I move into my own place in the next few months? I think I’m going to have to paint one wall red. Bright red.

So yeah. My retainer broke. I’m no longer a teenager. But as I sit here on my sofa, pantsless, eating Toblerone and watching trashy DVDs, I think to myself, “I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”

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