Learning to live in the nitty, gritty real world when the fantasy passes

In our culture, when you graduate college you step out of the growing up phase of your life and into the real world.

It looks glitzy and glamorous– like a marquee board lit up and flashing “Welcome to the Real World.” This is an exciting adventure. It’s time to enter The Real World.

For reference, The Real World is a place where you find a job that you both love and pays you enjoy to support yourself. In The Real World, people live in houses or apartments with nice furniture and art on the walls and plants on the porch. You find the perfect guy with a great, well paying (duh) job who takes you on dates and adores you and in a reasonable amount of time pops the question.

Except like most things lit up on a marquee board, The Real World is a fairy tale; it’s a fantasy with very little substance. Turns out the world is grimy and dirty and flawed. The idea of The Real World you’ve been sold, or sold to yourself, is, at best, an exaggeration and, perhaps, a lie.

Maybe I’m just an entitled, lazy millennial, but adjusting to what life after college actually is versus what I thought it would be is hard.

Saying it’s hard is putting it lightly.

The reality of my situation is like when you go to the beach all day.  You faithfully apply sunscreen only to realize there’s a patch where the swimsuit rode up and you have a second-degree sunburn. Every time you move, you ache. You hole up in the dark and only wear baggy clothes that barely touch you. The beach trip was supposed to be glorious, and instead, you are condemned to spend your time inside.

It’s a major let-down. This is not what you paid for.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a tad bit melodramatic. Turns out I’m a tad bit melodramatic, so what can you do? Maybe my disillusionment with the real world is my fault for being too idealistic and having a tendency to romanticize things. Maybe it’s my college’s fault for selling me the American dream if I went to college. Maybe it’s all the tv shows and movies I watch. Maybe it’s Instagram teaching us to post the edited highlights of our lives. Probably it’s some combination of all of the above.

Regardless, I, and I suspect some of my peers, am struggling to learn how to live in this new reality we’ve been thrown in. Some of us have good jobs but are disappointed in our social or romantic lives. Others can’t find jobs or are stuck in low paying jobs where we are unfulfilled and unappreciated. And the hardest thing is our problems no longer have immediate end dates in sight.

There is no more “if I can only make it through to next Wednesday this will all be over.” There is no next semester where you get new teachers and classes and classmates. The problems continue. Rent comes every month regardless of whether your car broke down. The guy you like doesn’t ask you out. Or if he does, he doesn’t text you afterward.

There is every possibility that when I reread this when I’m 27 or 35 or 48, I will laugh at how naive I was. I will see the struggle in the big picture. I will know that x lead to b which was way better than y would have been.

But for now, I can only see now. I know that this season of life is just that– a season. And yet, at present, it feels like forever.

There is no end in sight. Every day goes on as the day before. The rent comes. I don’t go on dates. My apartment is not a replica of the library in the Beast’s Castle in Beauty and The Beast (I’m only slightly joking here).

Some days it is hard to see the good, but it is there. I don’t have a great way to wrap this up because I am still living it. I can only say I am blessed by the lessons these circumstances are teaching me. I am learning God provides. I am learning how to live with less. I am learning how to carve a place for myself in the world, little by little, person by person. I am learning to see ugly thrift store furniture as charming and unique. I am learning about the generosity and love people share when you are open and vulnerable about your struggles.

Some days I think things are never going to get better than they are now. I feel like my present is my forever. I worry that I made wrong choices and ended up somewhere I didn’t want to be. I am scared that something is wrong with me; that I am flawed in some way that keeps me from succeeding. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I will be stuck here forever and am flawed and messed up in an irrevocable way.

I hope not.

I hope in a few decades I can look back and see God’s goodness and grace. When that time comes, I will gladly accept my role of telling people two to four decades younger than me how it all works out in ways you can’t imagine. I will tell them even if they mentally roll their eyes at me.

Until then, I’m living in my mess and hoping I get things right.

I am following the advice of Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6, “In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.,” and in Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.”


Things are hard and different than I expected but it’s ok. I know I serve a Lord who has overcome the world (John 16:33). And that’s so encouraging. Things don’t have to be picture perfect for me to serve the Lord. In fact, I think maybe we can serve him best in the nitty gritty real world.

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