Where the "Real World" Grows

Friday, June 29, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Say Anything is one of my all-time favorite movies.

As the movie begins, the valedictorian is giving a high-school graduation speech, and, like so many before her, she speaks about entering the "real world."

Ah, those pesky quotation marks.

In my brother's high school graduation speech, he also spoke of what it means to be delving into a world separate from our parents -- going out to make our own way in the world.

But, if i'm being honest (and i always am).  those of us lucky enough to go to college didn't have to figure out how we fit inside those quotation marks for a good long time. 

And then, after a 6-year dip in the real world pond, i went back to graduate school, a move i thought might pull me back out of the confines of the quotated "real world" for another half-decade.  What i found, however, was that for me the nature of the "real world" has very little to do with one's employment status.

So.  What IS the answer? what differentiates the semi-protective shell of childhood from the ever lamented monster of realness.  Here's my answer.

As kids, we have good times and bad times.  There are birthdays and recitals and parties and sleepovers and toys oh my.   There are also bullies, and teasing, and siblings, and recitals and sewing class.   But, these moments are discrete.  and if you wait long enough, the bad will relent to another happy moment . . . . and before too long after that, you will get teased relentlessly in middle school.  Growing up, you learn that you just have to outlast the bad moments in order to make it to the next waterslide party (metaphorically speaking of course).  I like to picture a kid who hates veggies (um . . . no one i know of course, with a bunch of brussel sprouts on his plate.  "i want ice cream," he tells his mother.   And what does she say (we could all say it together): "eat your brussel sprouts and then you can have dessert."  outlast the bad -- get to the good.

and then there is decision making!

But, thankfully, for kids, there is a right and there is a wrong and 9 times out of 10 we know what we should do.  (of course, how many times we do what we should is another matter completely).  There is a simplicity to the way the world is laid out for children.  This is NOT to say that a child's inner life isn't complex (far from it), but rather that we both teach our children, and give them confidence in themselves, by giving them choices they have the ability to make. 

And then the "real world" happens.  inside the quotes.   and two main things change.

1.  What is right and what is wrong get blurred.  Oh, the times I have lamented for the right answer to come to me.  Should i teach english in japan?  Should i go to grad school? (no) Should i break up with this person?  Marry that one?    And they get harder  usually its the choice between two equally viable alternatives.  Should i take this position or go back to school?  Stay together long distance, move, or focus on my career?  Get a dog or buy a playstation?!?

Being in the real world means no more right and wrong answers.  it is a time of best guesses.  this unnerves the many of us who draw solace from knowing we are doing right.  it is a process to find a place where you find excitement in the new adventure you've chosen instead of ruminating on the what if's.

2.  The good times and the bad times happen simultaneously.  This one takes a bit more explanation.  As an adult, when things get sucky, we try to do what we have always done when things sucked.  Forge through them to the happiness that must be coming down the road.  Unfortunately, when you're an adult, sometimes instead of happiness being at the end of the road, there is a grandparents death, or terminal cancer.  (i know i know, not very sunny of me).

And herein lies the growing.  When the realization comes that as adults, negatives no longer evaporate over time -- but linger like stinky farts -- you have to find some way to counteract this assault.  And you can't wait.  You have have to appreciate and revel in the moments of bliss like your life depends on it.  (i would argue it does).  You have to grab opportunity and enthusiasm by the waist and dance with them as long as the music is playing.  You have to embrace the good even when -- especially when-- the bad is still waiting in the wings.  Make it wait.  Make it wait as long as you can.  This ongoing battle between dealing with the reality of the pain of being a human being and reveling in the glory of the miracle of getting to be a human being, all takes place between the curved lines of the quotation marks which envelope the "real world".

No comments:

Post a Comment