Living in the Real World

Written by Jester

Shortly after Grade 6, all the authority figures in my life became obsessed with my future. Gosh, it was awfully nice of them. They worried about it so much that I figured there was plenty to cover everything, so I didn't do a whole lot of worrying myself.

Though, to hear them tell it, after Grade 6 I was continually on the verge of some great and savage frontier, where if I didn't smarten up, I'd be eaten alive. You were probably given many similar speeches. Oh, they used different terminology I'm sure, but it all amounted to the same thing. You were about to enter THE REAL WORLD (All caps, underscore, exclamation). That's probably how you heard it phrased most.

It was such a common phrase when I grew up. How everything was different in THE REAL WORLD, how I wouldn't get away with that in THE REAL WORLD, how everything was so much tougher in THE REAL WORLD. Being young and inexperienced, I did believe things sometimes, but a healthy streak of skepticism remained in me. This was because I spotted the erroneous assumption. They all said that THE REAL WORLD was tough, cruel, unforgiving, assuming that things as they stood now didn't already blow beyond belief. Which they did.

It also didn't help that they were continually changing their minds about what THE REAL WORLD actually was. Most times they seemed to be referring to life after school, when you needed to have a job. But I also heard it in reference to College/University, and even to high school!

Fortunately, the person who told us that was laughed out of the building. Unsurprisingly, it was a guidance counselor. Some people like to go and watch stand-up routines at comedy clubs. Me, I'll take a guidance counselor over a stand-up comedian any day. I have found memories of filling out aptitude tests and being told to "fill them out honestly" then being told writing "This sucks, and I want to see some proof of your teaching qualifications you quack" on them was not the kind of honesty they were looking for.

As young and inexperienced as we were, it soon became hopelessly apparent that whatever THE REAL WORLD was, high school definitely wasn't it. Or if it was, this was final proof that God didn't exist.

They tried to convince us in elementary school that a) God did exist; and b) high school was the real world were we would finally be responsible for ourselves and would sink or swim on our own merits. Well, I'm not really qualified to discuss a), but I can tell you that b) was something that you'd spread on your lawn for a thick, green, and healthy growth.

One of the things that they told us is that in high school, nobody would check our homework, so if we didn't do it, we'd get into lazy habits and not learn anything. First to this I say, "lazy habits"?! Do you know how much fucking work there is in not doing your homework? You should see the brilliant measures I resorted to. I am particularly proud of the time I copied someone's weather map for Grade 7 science and received a higher mark than they did. Let me tell you, I learned a hell of a lot from that incident.

And of course, the whole business about them not checking your homework is clearly..aha.false. In very few ways does high school encourage any kind of independence. In fact, it is heartily discouraged. How many times have you wanted to slightly deviate from an assignment and have them shoot down your idea? Anyone who's well read in a particular topic will not be a source of information or insight in a high class discussion, but a nuisance. This is because they introduce information that takes the conversation from black and white issues, to greys. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a Catholic high school, and a moral issue is raised. The simple fact is that the more you know about abortion, capital punishment, equal rights for real estate agents, etc., the harder it is to have a straight "Yes" or "No" opinion. Trying explaining that to the teacher.

In high school, the real world became University/College. They were really going to rip us a new one. Oddly enough, since I was constantly railing against high school, I found university, which was genuinely more open and relaxed, I was able to enjoy myself. In fact, I discovered I finally had the free hand to do what I'd always wanted to do anyway. That's the great contradiction of high school. They want you to take responsibility for yourself by conforming to their rules as closely as possible. This, in preparation for THE REAL WORLD of College/University.

Ah, but there's a snag. I found that the ones who had closely conformed were the ones least prepared. The ones that had spent every day in high school in an immaculate, letter of the regulation uniforms and were on student counsel panicked when their support network was yanked away. They were the ones who freaked out first. They would quickly shave their heads and dyed any remaining hair blue or pink or purple. They would sit in the front row and eat up every word the leftist sociology professor said (and it was usually stuff about how their life until this point and everything about it had been a lie). They were also the first ones to join the cults. The ones that struggled with every rule in high school, and had even been social outcasts, they fit right in. I admit my experience might be different, but my University days felt more real than most times in my life.

It's not that they were cruel either, for the most part. They just let us make up our own minds. If we didn't come to class, most teachers were willing to say so what? There were exceptions, but they were easy enough to ignore. Unlike the tight reigns of high school, they were fewer means of retaliating against us. What's more, if pushed, we could push back. They were recourses for disgruntled students, and official channels to complain to. In my program, every teacher was evaluated by the students at the end of the year. And yes, they did listen. One teacher of a new course was not invited back after the first year. Another was reprimanded for her teaching style, and was apparently a complete nervous wreck the following year.

Despite how good I felt about my University days, they denied it was THE REAL WORLD too. That would be after I graduated, and found a job.

I am now employed in a field where one of my responsibilities is playing computer games, and have been so employed for three years. I employ other people who do the same thing.

I seem to vaguely remember some of the many speeches I was told about THE REAL WORLD, and I do remember that computer games were not supposed to factor into it.

Pretty soon I stopped thinking about it as THE REAL WORLD (All caps, underscore, exclamation), but as simply "The Real World" and then "the real world" and finally I couldn't even be bother to spell it right "teh reel wurld."

Now that I have a job, pay rent, taxes, nobody talks much about teh reel wurld. It seems to me that what you have right now is THE REAL WORLD, and it can be as harsh or as kind as you and the others around you make it.

It's a collaborative process too. Nobody has authority over it, though they might think they do. So if in your corner of reality, someone is being a hard ass and saying "that's not what it's like in teh reel wurld, well, they are right, only because they are defining the rules. So if you don't like those rules, break them all, and send that twit packing. Or move to a better reality and leave the bleak reality to those that are determined to have it.