It is the season of transitions. Of beginnings and endings, of bittersweet excitement: it is graduation season. With all the graduation announcements, I keep hearing the phrase “Congrats! Welcome to the real world!”
I know the real world awaits, a world outside of grades where joys are bigger than a few brick buildings. But I know that even though I have a year left of college, I’m still in the real world. The world of my small university is incredibly real to me. The laughter among friends who know each other to the very core is real. The mingling sadness and extreme happiness of seeing best friends graduate is real. The sorrow of knowing you are not enough to take away the sadness of a hurting child is real. The joy of knowing the One who can heal their hurt is real. Paying bills (small though they are), learning to live with someone, travelling, meeting friends, heartbreaks, falling in love: it is all real. The stress is real. The joy is real. The world is real.
I watch my sisters each prepare to graduate. Rebekah from middle school and Hannah from high school. Teachers, friends, and strangers say to Hannah, “ah, so you’re about to enter the real world.” But just because they haven’t entered the real world, the eighth grader’s worries aren’t any less real. High school is certainly a real place full of real emotions.
Middle school, high school, and even college might offer dilemmas and triumphs of a smaller scale than the complexities I might one day face. Having graduated from both middle school and high school, I know that transitions are good and that while hard times are wider, joys are deeper as one journeys through life. I know that the world beyond college is real. There will be bigger bills to pay and harder decisions to make. There will be people who depend on me for support and love and challenges I can’t begin to imagine.
Growing up means taking small steps. No matter how traumatic the life, one isn’t born running. No one just suddenly lands in the real world. We get there moment by moment. But the process doesn’t make the moments any less meaningful. Instead, it gives them power. The very realness of the world is sometimes best captured in a mere moment. Because this isn’t the real world, at least not as it was intended to be.
As C. S. Lewis described so beautifully, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” One day, a song other than Pomp and Circumstance will be the melody that celebrates my transition into the Real World. This Real World is a place where strivings cease and fears disappear. Hope will be unnecessary, because all the hopes of this world will be fulfilled. This new world is coming. “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:17).
In preparation for this Real World, I’ll celebrate the one I’m in. I’ll make note of the transitions. Without discounting the struggles and emotions, I’ll remember days when my reality was simpler. I’ll look forward in eager hope for the days that are ahead. And as much as I am able, I’ll live a life of love because this life is very real.