Before I start letting loose on this concept, I'm curious if anyone besides me has heard this phrase: "you'll be in the real world soon," or "once you graduate from college, you'll be in the real world."
Saying I hate that term would be a lie; in fact, it's a fucking understatement. I despise anyone who somehow mustered the titanium balls to say that to my face. I despise anyone who, in their pea-sized excuse for a brain, decided that I'm somehow not in reality or in this so-called "real world" despite what I've been through SO FAR.
I recently celebrated my twentieth birthday. Yeah, I feel fucking old, but that's beside the point. In the past twenty years, I've experienced things that others can either relate to or have never seen before. I've lost a caring grandmother and one of my uncles. For over ten years now, I have not been able to visit my grandma at Christmas time. The uncle I mentioned died of Leukemia; worse, he died two days after I last saw him. I don't know how anyone else deals with remembering a loved one smiling at you and saying "I'll be fine, I promise" and then dying in their sleep two days later, but it just brought me to tears. It still hurts even after eight years.
I've also lost two cats. It may not be as signifficant as losing a human, but it still sucks. We lost one cat when I was in eighth grade. He was a rescued cat that an Animal Control worker my mom knew took from the owner and gave to us. He suffered a stroke that rendered one of his hindlegs useless; the vet confirmed our suspicions that his former owner had a part in bringing that risk of a stroke onto him. He was my cat, and god damn it sucked not having a companion for a while.Our other cat, Figaro (or Fig), made it all the way to last summer. A tumor on her hindleg couldn't be removed, so we decided, as a family, to put her down. Please, for the love of God, do not call it "put to sleep." That implies that the procedure is somehow easy. It isn't.
Besides losing people, there were a million things going on. The 9/11 attacks were a great way to scare a fifth grader like me. Friends, best friends I should add, have moved away when I needed them most. Other friends turning into pure dirtbags thanks to crack and other drugs. Oh, and when the Iraq way first started, worrying my dad could be deployed at any moment (seriously, any time the phone rang, he jumped). I think I've made shit clear by now. Let me know if I somehow haven't.
Now, I normally don't put sob stories like that into my writing, but I did it for a reason here. Do you think, after (I hope) reading all of that, that I'm not in this "real world" that teachers and professors set up? Maybe I'm not working a nine-to-five desk job or as an Information Systems Analyst yet, but fuck me twenty times if I somehow haven't experienced what reality IS. Reality is about emotion when it comes to humans. The human experience isn't "real" without it. Reality isn't working a tech job or holding onto a college degree. It's about all the emotional milestones we've passed since we were fucking BORN. We've all lost something special to us: a family member, a cat, a friend. We've also gained something, too. An education, maybe. Or even a couple of bros to play games with on Friday nights. The real "real world" is the one we are already in, and it's as real as it gets, I'm afraid.
There's that whole "reality bites" thing, too. I've got pleanty of bite marks already. The next time someone tells me I'm not in the "real world" yet, I'll either show them these bite marks or tell them to fuck off; It depends on what is emotionally easier at the moment.