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Six months in the real world

I’ve been out of school for six months now.

How do I know? Not by the calendar. I don’t actually own a calendar. No, I had a decidedly more “Welcome to the real world” reminder: My first student loan payment is due.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how your whole life people tell you “wait until you’re in the real world.” I always hated that phrase. When I was in high school, when I was in college, even now, I always wanted to ask what I was living if not my real life. There is no alternate universe. Life is the real world. You only get one shot, and there is no do-over. You don’t get to try door number two if you don’t like door number one. You have to find a new door somewhere along the road.

College is a bit of an incubator though, protecting you from a lot of the realities. My parents were never the “let me pay your rent” type. I’m a stronger person because of it. I’ve always had to pay for what I wanted or needed, whether it was taking my ACTs or AP tests, buying my laptop or my digital camera, putting gas in my car or just buying dinner. I had to work to make the money for it. So it is. Everything I have, I earned. I’m thankful for my parents not prolonging the “real world.”

But still I’ve been catching myself lately thinking “So, this is the real world.” The job I have, the apartment I’m furnishing bit by bit, the car I drive, the loans I have to repay… This is the real world. This is what I’ve been working toward and waiting for. This is as real as it gets. And the scary thing about it is, one thing leads to another and they’re all tied together and interelated.

And six months has passed while I’ve been adjusting. That means I’ve been here in Lafayette for five months. It seems like I started last week and simultaneously like I’ve been doing this forever. Even Abbey’s been here three weeks already.

I guess that’s the part of the real world nobody warns you about. I had expected time to slow down. I thought it just seemed to pass quickly because I was so busy trying to pack too many experiences into too few years during high school and college. But now six months seems like six days. What do I have to show for myself? Next month I’ll be 22, which seems like such an odd age. Twenty-one seems youthful, the world so full of promise and new beginnings. But 22? It’s just the year after 21 and on your way to cheaper car insurance and, several seasons later, on to 30. The sad thing is, I’ll still be paying back those loans long after college seems like weeks instead of months ago.

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