I went to dinner with two of my really good friends tonight. I hadn’t talked to one of them in a while, so we had a lot of catching up to do. We were talking about a girl she recently began seeing (she’s gay – no judgement), who, I might add, has made her very happy. I’m really, really happy for her. We asked where this girl is from. “Where is she from? Like in real life?” my friend asked.
This isn’t the first time someone has asked a question about life outside of college, describing it as “real life,” as if college is, what, fake life? To be fair, the college I go to has been compared to a bubble. Our beautiful, pristine, reputable school sits in the middle of a struggling community. Drive a mile in either direction and you’ll come across faded buildings, men sitting on boxes in the middle of sidewalks, and graffitied stop signs. Regardless of my college’s placement, why do our lives outside of college constitute as “real life?” And I get we might just say it because we don’t know how else to ask “Where are you from when you aren’t living here?” Because that’s just way too long, and who has the time for prolonged dialogue anymore?
It hit me harder tonight because I won’t be in this fantasized “fake life” anymore. I’m graduating. I’m going back to “real life.” Was I ever living a “real life?” Four years. That’s all you get. That’s the only time you have to be young, wild, carefree, before you enter the more demanding “real life.” In college, you forget there is life after graduation. You forget your bubble has boundaries. You have papers to finish, and tests to study for, but none of it feels real. Not like “real life.” You’re playing a part, never realizing what you are preparing for. Until you remember you have to go back, but this time, you have to lead your own life. Your parents can’t do it for you. You have to get a job, earn your own money, make your own REAL decisions; you have to depend on your own survival.
That’s real life. We all have to return it eventually.