“The Real World”

I saved this blog post as an empty draft almost a year ago, after I got accepted as a part-time supervisor at the library I currently work at. I never got around to writing it, yet the things I wanted to talk about are still as poignant a year later, so here we go.

I really struggle with the mindsets surrounding the “real world” (or the adult world) and how major milestones in life are treated as deadlines you are meant to meet (usually by your early 20s). If you fail to do this, then you obviously aren’t successful. Take jobs, for example. Because apparently, if you don’t work a job from 8-5 Monday through Friday–and if you don’t hate it–you don’t actually have a “real job.” At least, that was the response I initially got from some after they learned I worked nights. And when I told them that I actually enjoyed my job…

It really makes no sense to me and made me question what qualifies as a “real” job. An adult job. A job where others respect you because of said job. Whose parameters am I failing because my hours are 6pm-12am (and if I go full-time, hopefully, 3pm-12am)? How am I lacking because I ended up getting a second job? Why is my job scoffed at because I have time to get on social media, write, read or blog during my shifts, after my other tasks are completed?

And who on Earth said that you had to be miserable at work in order to “make it”?

And that’s just one example of how I’m sometimes considered “doing it wrong” in the adult world. There are so many others. Some conversations I’ve been having with friends lately reveals just how much pressure we all feel to make it–actually, to have already “made it”, because none of us feel like we’re at where we are supposed to be. We all feel behind. You see, we should all have the traditional 8-5 job, married, 2.5 kids, house with a white picket fence. That’s success. We range throughout our 20s, age wise, yet all of us feel, to various degrees, that we aren’t where we are “supposed” to be. Career wise. Relationship wise. Family wise. Writing wise. Financially. Emotionally. Physically. Because of this, we all feel like we’ve failed, somehow. That we’re not doing it right. And it’s stressful. Ridiculously stressful.

All of this angst and pressure we feel, this disappointment in ourselves, it makes me wonder not only where it comes from, but why we feel this way in the first place. Whose standards are we unconsciously–and at the same time, with very acute awareness–are we comparing ourselves to and finding ourselves lacking? Who decided that there was a “right” way to live life, some way that the rest of us must subscribe to and mimic in order to full accomplished and successful?

That mindset has gotta go, friends.

Life is hard enough as it is without putting unnecessary added pressure to hit all of these expectations or markers by some made up deadline and then base your worth and success off of how many checks you can cross off that list. Hell, when I was in high school, my vision of success was by the time I was 24, I’d have a degree, a full-time job, a husband and a home we shared. By the time I was 28, we’d be talking about starting a family and I’d definitely be published by the time I was 30.

I have no idea where half of those ages came from. I do know that I picked most of them not because I thought I’d actually do any of those things by that time, but because I assumed that was when I should have done those things by. Worse, as these things haven’t happened, I still catch myself adapting my deadlines to match how my life has panned out, trying to figure out my new “supposed to”. Now, in the back of my head, I actually think, since I missed my “deadline”, I’ll never get married. So I’m teeter-tottering between what age I should start applying to adopt (because even if I never get to experience love, I’ll be damned if I never get to be a mother). Is 30 too early? 35 too late? Should I buy my own house and live alone, or live in apartments forever? Should I get a dog now or wait a few years? Published at 40 or never?

Yet who says because I missed the deadlines of when these things were “supposed” to happen, according to my brain, that they will never happen? Or that I failed? Or that my entire life should already be figured out in the first place (or ever)? Or that I can’t continue to work on what I want to accomplish, no matter what age I am or how different my version of success looks like compared to society’s?

Who says I’m still not successful and adulting well even if my life isn’t a cookie cutter of what society says it should be?

I think we need to work on more forgiving mindsets in terms of what a successful life “in the real world” looks like. There is no one path to success. There are no deadlines, no timeline you are expected to meet. Just because you haven’t reached X point in your career, said “I do,” had X amount of kids or not accomplished any other major milestones by certain points or ages in your life doesn’t mean those milestones are now unreachable for you. Nor does it mean that your life is not on the right course for you. And I think it is important to remember that; that each person’s life has a different timeline where milestones fall.

Personally, for me, my life in “the real world” is working 55 hours a week at two jobs, continuing to work on improving my fitness and my writing, being complicatedly single, living in my own apartment, paying all my own bills, trying to work in traveling internationally once a year and genuinely being happy 95% of the time. My career is still questionable. My love life isn’t where I want it. Starting a family is not in my near future. I’m financially struggling. I’m in debt for the next 10 years. And I’m 24 years old. Not already 24, not only 24–those words insinuate that I’m either missing something or moving too quickly in life. No. I’m 24 years old and my life is being shaped by the choices I make and the effort I put in, alongside the mentality I maintain. I’m immersed in the real world as I know it. And where I am at is perfectly okay.

Cheers.

Advertisements

About Nicole Evans

Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. She has five completed manuscripts: a trilogy about destined heroes that fail anyway, a science fiction standalone that pits the natural desire to love against the natural instinct to kill during the extinction of the human race and a new series about a writer who can't get published and gets the chance to live a life that all writers dream. She also has two scripts done. Currently, she is about to start writing the second of a nine book series while planning two more. (If you can tell, she really likes this whole writing thing.) Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters’ she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works part-time as a supervisor in a library at the University of Kansas. View all posts by Nicole Evans

17 responses to ““The Real World”

  • Joyce C

    I love love love this post so much.

    “Yet who says because I missed the deadlines of when these things were “supposed” to happen, according to my brain, that they will never happen? Or that I failed? Or that my entire life should already be figured out in the first place (or ever)? Or that I can’t continue to work on what I want to accomplish, no matter what age I am or how different my version of success looks like compared to society’s?

    “Who says I’m still not successful and adulting well even if my life isn’t a cookie cutter of what society says it should be?”

    You’re right. We do need to be more forgiving of ourselves, even if it’s near impossible because we are the hardest on ourselves because of the ambitious deadlines we set for ourselves and the deadlines society set for us.

    “There is no one path to success. There are no deadlines, no timeline you are expected to meet. Just because you haven’t reached X point in your career, said “I do,” had X amount of kids or not accomplished any other major milestones by certain points or ages in your life doesn’t mean those milestones are now unreachable for you. Nor does it mean that your life is not on the right course for you.”

    Quotable! And so encouraging. So glad I have you guys to fumble through my twenties with ❤

    • Nicole Evans

      Joyce, you truly are a gem. Thank you! ❤

      And you know it was the Muses who inspired this post. And though it was so easy to write, "we need to be more forgiving of ourselves," I think, in essence, that's one of the hardest things to accomplish. I also love that the post was so quotable. And hopefully those quotes help you on your unique, inspiring and kickass journey. ❤

  • M.A. Crosbie

    YES PREACHHH 😀 Thank you for articulating all of this, and yeah, what Joyce said ❤

  • justbmoreblog

    Yes, so yes to everything you said. I just picked up (and almost finished!) the book, “How to be Alive” by Colin Beavan and it discusses all of this. It’s a good read, so I recommend it. It might not be earth-shattering to you (I mean it wasn’t for me) but it seems like a good book for where you are now. Just gives you a lot of nice things to think about.

  • Adam

    I’ve definitely struggled with this, and at least a few of my friends were willing to say it too.
    There is a strong element of individuality in our culture, but that can also create a sense of comparing oneself to others.
    I once read an article that talked about how frequently fiction, especially movies, TV shows, and commercials, subconsciously manipulate us.
    For example, the protagonists of Law & Order visit the home of a minor character who identifies as a high school teacher in New York City.
    Subconsciously audiences see the size of the character’s apartment, the clothes they wear, the life they live, and begin thinking “that’s what a high school teacher’s life is supposed to look like.”
    I think the article estimated that the families in “Modern Family” would need Fortune 500 CEO salaries to maintain the home and lifestyle implied by the show.
    The really insidious part is that because the narrative is focused on other things, these details become background noise, consciously ignored, but subconsciously absorbed.

    So far the only thing I’ve found that helps is to honestly share my thoughts and feelings with others, and together realize that we both have some misconceptions about each other. Often times the people that I envy secretly envy me as well.

    • Nicole Evans

      Those points you brought up about being subconsciously manipulated were absolutely fascinating. I didn’t even think of that, but now that you’ve pointed it out, it makes a ton of sense.

  • dtkrippene

    We’ve all succumbed in one way or another to the Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle”. I like your attitude. After 32 years in corporate America, I chucked it (of course, that pesky responsibility thing insisted I wait until the girls were launched). My new mantra is: “Grown up is an overrated concept”. Keep charging, Nichole, and don’t lose the eloquent message you’ve written to yourself here. I look forward to following your posts. DT

    • Nicole Evans

      Aw, thank you for stopping by and checking out my post! Keep charging is certainly the goal. And I’m glad you’ve figured out something that has worked for you, as well! 🙂

  • Olivia

    Nicole I absolutely loved this post, and it resonated with me so much. As I was reading “All of this angst and pressure we feel, this disappointment in ourselves, it makes me wonder not only where it comes from, but why we feel this way in the first place. Whose standards are we unconsciously–and at the same time, with very acute awareness–are we comparing ourselves to and finding ourselves lacking?” — I had to actually stop and think, wait, why am I pushing myself to have X. Y. and Z done by the time I’m 30? Where did I get the assumption that that’s how it has to be?

    And then I thought…you know, I don’t actually know where that came from! It was a truly insightful moment to think that, hey, maybe I should slow down and smell the roses because those arbitrary deadlines in life I’ve given myself are just those – random deadlines I’ve given myself because I felt like I needed to.

    Anyway, point being, you rock as usual 🙂 A truly thought provoking post and appreciated!

    • Nicole Evans

      Isn’t that such a mind-blowing realization? Because I had the same ephiany kind of moment where I just sat back and was like, “Wait, why do I feel the need to complete all of this by the time I’m 30? Why do I feel like I’m “behind” on so much because I’m turning 25 this year?”

      I’m so glad this post resonated with you! That is the best compliment you can give a writer and coming from such a mind and soul and wonder like you, it is a MASSIVE compliment. ❤ Let's do another 5-hour lunch date soon?

  • Kyle Malone

    Nicole, I just stumbled upon your blog and am now your newest follower (I mean, I think I am, if some other guy got in in the last twenty seconds than kudos to him). Anyway, as a fellow writer (someone publish me already!), I’m super excited to see all your updates. The posts I have read so far are great 🙂

    Kyle

    • Nicole Evans

      Kyle, it’s a pleasure! *shakes hand* You actually became my 200th offical follower, so you definitely made your mark! 😛 Thank you so much for the follow and for pausing to leave a comment. I wish you the utmost luck in your writing endeavors and I hope we can continue to support one another on our publishing quests!

  • Steve D

    I’ve thought a lot about this, since I definitely went through this phase in my mid-20s while working at a restaurant rather than in a “real” job like most of my friends.

    The 8-5 work model definitely comes from the Industrial era. The thing is, our generation in particular is starting to see a shift in this model. While a lot of people will continue working 8-5 jobs (because that’s how most big companies function), I think we will start to see a shift to a post-industrial model of employment. This may mean piecing together a living income through two or more jobs totaling 50-60 hours of work per week, rather than one job at 40 hours exactly. The Information Age has brought this on, so we have to adapt.

    Just know that you’re not alone 🙂 I now work a more regular 8-5 schedule in an office environment, but I don’t feel like I’ve “made it”. Everybody has different standards. Set your own and push forward.

    • Nicole Evans

      I think that shift is definitely really interesting.I know more people my age that work nights than I do people with the traditional 9-5 job. And I do wonder what life will look like as those expectations continue to shift. Thank you so much for your comments, though. It’s comforting to be reminded that everyone has a different idea of “making it” and I just need to find my own and chase it. I hope life is treating you well!

Leave questions, comments or angry remarks below...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: