December 7, 2011

the realest world

In high school we are told about the “real world”. School is spent working hard and kissing arse (or maybe not at all), to establish ourselves in such world once we graduate. It is an attitude that is presented to adolescents by teachers and parents and other adults that claim the “real world” is a whole lot different than the world of teenagers.

There are aspects of truth to this statement. Obviously teenagers and adults face different circumstances and challenges, so our worlds are different. But I dislike the phrase “the real world” because it promotes that what teenagers experience is not real. Which can then lead to the impression that it’s not okay to be struggling if it’s not even the “real world”. In my opinion, if you are on planet Earth, you are in the real world.

When teenagers hear the phrase it is frustrating and patronising. High school and college are hard, and for some, they are hell. When you’re a teenager there are countless things to keep you awake at night – schoolwork, dating, partying, peer pressure, parents, friends, bullying – whatever the circumstance. The teenage years, especially from aged fifteen onwards, are a period that one is trying to discover himself or herself, while at the same time keeping good grades, pleasing parents and being “cool”. There can be a lot going on.

So when someone mentions “the real world” - and the fact that we’re apparently not in it - it can throw a spanner in the works. Because for teenagers, life is bloody hard enough without condescending adults looking down their noses at our experiences.

On the other hand, I do see the perspective from which adults look at teenagers. They’ve been in our shoes and already experienced the years of teenage angst. I think that adults tend to use the phrase “the real world” because of a few reasons. Firstly because they’ve forgotten exactly what teenage years entailed, but most importantly because as adults, they now hold a more educated perspective. They’ve had ten or twenty or thirty years to look back on being a teenager, and in context of mortgages and families and full time jobs they see teenage years as relatively simplistic compared to their current lives.

It’s the same kind of thing as when last year I sat end of grade ten exams (which don’t count for much). I held relatively high importance on exams and did let a bit of stress get to me. Now this year when my grade ten friends had to sit the same exams I was all like, “Why are you stressed about that? They don’t mean anything!” I had that attitude because not only had I already experienced grade ten exams, but also because I had just finished the much harder and more important grade eleven exams. But for my grade ten friends, the exams were still important because that was the season of life they were in. When I was in grade ten, older friends told me the same thing too but it made absolutely no difference to how I felt or acted.

I understand this completely from both perspectives. But I think the term “the real world” should not be used. Whatever your world attains at the current time is okay. Teenager or adult, you are still living life. Whatever you’re feeling is okay. But that doesn’t mean you have to act on those feelings. Because life is also fun. Adults should remember that teenagers do not have it completely easy and us teenagers should give adults more credit than we do. And then we should all get back to living life. On the real world – the only world. 

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