A friend of mine, who successfully made a middle-class living for most of her adult life as an artist, recently had to find a job in another line of work due to various external factors outside of her control. “I had to find a ‘real’ job,” she said, similar to when graduating college students say with ambiguity and regret that they will be entering the “real world.” The descriptor “real” in both cases implying the unavoidable necessity of letting go of a time we valued to enter into a time of seriousness – of adulthood – where there will be little room for whimsy, for fun, for patience and forgiveness of our naiveté. “Real” carries with it a sadness, a burden of responsibility we must accept.
So we shed our childish fantasies and enter the arena of “real”, where reality is not something we shape, but something we accept. We find a “real” job where it would be self-indulgent to expect joy from anything other than a job well done, and maybe a pay raise every now and then. A job where weekends are welcomed as a relief and vacations remind us of who we could have been. We accept the “real” job wages and the “real” job frustrations, so that one day, if we have saved and been fortunate, we may walk away from “real,” take long weekend trips to that cute little town nearby we never had time to experience, and start our days drinking coffee and reading the paper without a sense of urgency. We endure “real” so that we may be rewarded by our detachment from it and just be.
Unless, that is, hard work and luck with us, we take risks likely perceived as irresponsible and refuse to conform to “real.”