I’d like to thank someone for once saying something condescending to me which has made me quite introspective for several years now. They said something to the effect of, “Welcome to the real world.” This was right after I’d gotten married and was “thrust into real life” as they say. This wasn’t spoken as a warm reception into adult life and marriage. Because of the circumstances of the conversation (and the source!) I know it was definitely condescending.
Now every time I hear that wonderful line from “that one” John Mayer song I laugh and shake my head: “Welcome to the real world, she said to me, condescendingly.” Why has this one thing that this ONE person said affected me so much? It’s a phrase used in many situations that may mean many different things. Here’s your college diploma – welcome to the real world. Congratulations on the new baby – welcome to the real world. You now have a car loan – welcome to the real world. It’s just a saying. But because I’m an annoyingly introspective person, I read into it more.
What it has done for me is cause me to constantly question what is considered “real”. One person’s real is not necessarily another person’s real. Your list of things that constitutes a real, legitimate, grown up life may not be mine. If everyone simply accepted this as a universal truth things would be great. However, as humans it seems like we always need someone to look down on. So if your real isn’t just like my real, you are really not as good as me?
Earlier, I posted an article on Facebook that I’ve probably read ten times. Jon Foreman writes articles for Huffington Post from time to time and they’re always amazing. This one has really stuck with me though. It’s about “making a living”. A lot of times, when this whole “real world” thing is bugging me it is tied in with materialism. Jon Foreman posits that making a living should be redefined beyond merely meaning “making money”. Making a living, in his theory, should mean creating life – “ingeniously crafting the true and the beautiful out of the confines of the present tense. Remixing tomorrow out of the raw materials of today.” I 100% agree with his sentiments. It’s a long article, so if you have ADD or can’t read here’s the best part:
“I’d like to suggest that ATM receipts and mortgage payments have very little to do with living or life or making life worth living. In my personal struggle to make a living, I’ve found that true success has very little to do with income or comfort. In fact, it seems to me that inconvenience, hardship and discomfort are my best teachers.”
It’s been several years now since that person spoke those words to me over the phone. The most amazing and beautiful thing I can take from this weird, introspective journey is that I am a vastly different person than I was that day. From everything I’ve seen over the past 4 years, that person is exactly the same. I’ve grown (literally and figuratively), I’ve admitted I was wrong at least a million and one times, I’ve gotten farther away and closer to God all at once, I’ve examined and re-examined my life, I’ve loved, I’ve hated (unfortunately), I’ve realized money and things will never fill me up while still coveting money and things (dumb!), and I’ve continually evolved.
So, the “real world” is an abstract thought that is incredibly different for a world full of incredibly different people. I think I can let my faithful friend John (Mayer, not Foreman) close this one out with his wise words:
“I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world – just a lie you’ve got to rise above.”