In the real world…
She had a panic attack.
He was up at 5:00 AM to do his chores, so he could get to zero-hour band.
She didn’t have breakfast.
He met six different deadlines in six different classes.
She didn’t do her homework because no one was at home to take care of her younger brothers and sisters.
He thought about suicide.
She didn’t tell someone about sexual assault.
He wore the same clothes he had the three days before.
She was bullied on social media.
He lost a wrestling match in front of everyone.
She was medicated. Her anxiety is crippling otherwise.
He binged on the food he had hidden in his room. And then hated himself for it.
She silently endured racism.
He didn’t “come out.”
He did drugs again. He doesn’t know how to stop.
They broke up. They didn’t know how to make it work.
No one talked to her. They never do.
His mom died.
…in the real world.
Whether we think it or say it, when we warn kids with the “real world,” it is an affront to their existence, to their humanity, to their reality. The kids, the humans above attend Anywhere High School in Everywhere, World. And whether it was yesterday, today, or tomorrow their world feels real enough. Ask them. They’ll tell you.
Nothing is more real than now. Yesterday’s gone. Tomorrow’s not here. All we have–young or old–is today. Now. Are there things we can bring to the attention of our young from our own experiences in the world? Of course. But the key here is that they are our experiences, not theirs. And even for us, each of us, that experience was different, so when we say “real world,” whose world, which world are we talking about? We often seem to suggest there is a standardized, formulaic experience that is the real world. Maybe instead of placing some future world on their shoulders, we should just simply help them with the one that lies on their shoulders right now. Otherwise, we might be placing lies on their shoulders.
We have an opportunity to exist with and support kids as they make their ways through their worlds, worlds that are the most real they can be, for they are now. That’s the “real talk” we should be having with them.