Is working 30 hours a week and traveling to different cities and countries on weekends any less “real” than working 40+ hour weeks and living for the weekends?
This question of what is the “real world” and what is “real life” is one that I continually write about and one of the main reasons for which I left Spain. If you feel like I’m beating a dead horse at this point, don’t worry, I feel that way too. And I keep beating it because every time I thought I came up with an answer to the question, I never felt happy about it. As time goes on and I return to the American version of the “real world” I realize that the definition of what is “real life” is incredibly subjective.
There’s a level of jadedness here, even among young people my age, that is a little frightening. I’ve been told upon returning that it’s time for a reality check, that I need to get serious, that I have to start thinking about settling down and preparing for the future. I understand now that this is pure projection.
I am really well put together for a young woman of my age. Full-time job, marketable, loans paid in full, emergency savings, great at budgeting, health conscience, goal-oriented and always 100% dedicated to doing my best wherever I find myself.
But the message I was constantly receiving was that just because I had the freedom to take a weekend trip to a beautiful new city or country, or live on the beach (I will forever play this card and I’m not sorry at all that I can) and have the time, energy and finances to meet friends for drinks in the middle of the week, was that I was floating around and passing time. “Passing time” implicating that I was just messing around for a little while till I experienced that “reality check” and returned to the “real world.”
The great fortune and privilege of my and future generations is that we can travel to virtually any part of the world within hours. The limitations of our world (job possibilities, friendships, etc.) has grown from our town, city or state to literally the entire world. Therefore, if our world encompasses the entire globe, why is it that there is still this pressure to squeeze ourselves into the square boxes of having one specific type of job, settling down into one place, and falling into routine and predictability?
When I spoke to a friend about these questions that had led me out of Spain and my profound need to find the answers, she was the only person who said to me, “But do you have to find those answers right now?” I was taken aback. I had left Spain thinking that I’d be able to, and was required to, find the answers I was looking for in New York, in the “real world.” But here was this unheard of idea that those answers are ones that I continually create for
myself, not clear cut ones printed and laminated serving as the ultimate goal. And along with that was the suggestion that I didn’t have to join the ranks of those in the “real world” to find those answers, that those answers could come to me throughout my adventures and travels, in their own time.
There is no one “real world.” The real world, real life, is what you decide it to be. Within reason of course. It’s not to say that I’m going to cast off all of my responsibilities and convert to absolute hedonism. But if I am happy, helping to contribute to others’ happiness, taking care of myself and reasonably planning for the future, than is it not reasonable to contend that my life is just as real as those working from 8AM to 8PM in their fancy offices bringing in six figure salaries? If that makes them happy, all the better for them, but no one has a right to step on my definition of the real world as if it were any less valuable than theirs.
It’s time for us to cast off these deeply rooted ideas we have of what reality is. As we speak, developments are being made all over the world that we would have once thought “unreal” in the form of technology, artificial intelligence, etc. Reality and the realm of possibility as we know it are ever-changing. Our worldview is no longer solely about what goes on at the local level but also at the global. If my greatest passion, and what I deem my reality to be, is travel, than it is no more or less real than those whose reality is limited to their one job or one town. If it is within my realm of possibility to continue to travel and experience the world, than I will fully take advantage of that for it is my path, my story, and I am its sole author.