The warm water was the perfect antidote to cold-weather-blues. The moon overhead exuded a vibrant glow across a field of clouds and stars; I kept my eyes on the sky while my housemate and I chatted. Afterwards, still warm and relaxed from hot-tubbing at Common Ground Wellness Center, we stood in our kitchen discussing a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past few days: the perception our culture has about “the real world”.
Has someone – perhaps your family or friends – ever told you “Welcome to the real world”? I grew up hearing this statement as some sort of explanation for the reason things are the way they are. Anytime I questioned or complained about the narrow path we are generally told to follow (school, university, full-time job, marriage, family), I was told to get used to it, because IT was the REAL world. What I want to know is, who decided what’s real and what’s not? How long has this perception of our world existed? And why does the real world sound like such a boring and depressing place?
When I caught myself daydreaming about traveling and scheming how to do it again, I heard a familiar justification for re-entering the workforce replay in my mind: this is the real world, you have to work; you can’t just play all the time. And something about that automatic reply woke me up; I’ve begun to realize how limiting this concept of the real world that I’ve always been told about really is.
The good news is, we can shift our perception, which in turn shifts reality. Instead of settling into the defeat of modern life, succumbing to an overworked and auto-pilot consumerist lifestyle, what if we saw all the other choices we can make? What if we saw the myriad of ways we can shape our world? What if we understood the dramatic impact we can have on those around us and even those far from us?
What if we could create a life outside of the confines of what our culture and families expect of us?
I’m not advising we all quit our jobs and live irresponsibly; all I’m saying is there is more to life than what we have been told exists in the “real world”; I know this because I experienced it when I did the unthinkable in a bad economy: quit my job and use my savings to buy a one-way ticket overseas.
We can choose to let the fear-mongering about the dark and harsh “real world” keep us in line with what everyone else is doing, or we can see it for what it is: a tall-tale, and begin to create our own definitions of the world we want to, and do, live in.