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March 2019

The Real World

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OK, let’s get real, shall we?

There’s a great Col. Bruce Hampton song with the lyrics, “Got to keep it real … compared to what?” Consider it the soundtrack of this blog post.

See, I was camping in my tiny home right on the waters of the Friendly Beaches in Tasmania recently. The park had a breathtaking view, with the corpuscular rays of the setting sun bouncing off the salty waves as pademelon – those are miniature kangaroos for those who haven’t been rambling around this Australian state – hopped past your site. There was no internet there, no phone service … just the rush of the ocean and the clear, mountain air. Nearby, someone was packing down. They said to their neighbor, “Well, it’s time to return to the real world!” 

Piers Greville’sPedder Prime Cuts, the winner of the 2019 Glover Award in Evansdale, Tasmania. It’s a landscape. Does it look like your reality?

What does this even mean? As someone who is never and always on holiday, as I like to quip, I never am taking a break. Even though I am constantly traveling, exploring, going to new restaurants and seeing parts of the world I once never even dreamed of experiencing, it’s simply my life. I’ve lived in certain places throughout my life for long enough to develop lasting and meaningful friendships, but there’s no returning to these places as if it were more real than my life today. My life today is my real life. 

Now, as those familiar with this blog’s soundtrack may know, I have spent many years of my life attending music festivals. I even wrote a book about it. All that glitter, laughter, lack of responsibility and good times … it sure seemed like an escape from the real world. It’s like I felt the real world was filled with people who weren’t nice and days that were boring. Isn’t that sad? But it’s real, too, isn’t it. The real world is filled with people who lack compassion and days when I don’t have a lot of work so I just hang out, practice yoga and read.

Six years ago: I’m in a suit, make up, pearls and heels, drinking wine because that somehow made my reality better.

If I were to be working an office job, would that be more real? If I were to go back to sitting in an air-conditioned room, under florescent lights, wearing high heels and make-up, is that really real? If I commute in my vehicle during rush hour, buy lots of stuff I don’t really need, get pissed off at other people around me, find myself overwhelmed by social obligations and sit in front of the television for hours … would I be a member of the real world?

Judging by what that woman said at the campground, the real world sounds pretty awful. Why would you create a life for yourself where you want to escape?

Now, of course I understand. Five years ago, I was doing all those things. A former co-worker just emailed me to ask how I was, and he said I sounded a lot happier. I guess I am, but I’m not sure I had really considered myself unhappy when I was working a 9-5 job (along with a few other side gigs). In fact, I likely would have told you that I was very happy. And yet, I also went out of town almost every weekend. Little did I realize, I was trying to escape.

There is no escape from the real world. 

I recently read an article about perimenopause, and I felt so bad for the woman who wrote it. She was so unhappy and challenged by her roller-coastering hormones that she would lock her door to keep her loving family out. This is the same type of friend who would post about how excited they were to drink wine after work. I still drink wine – heck, I’m in the wine region of Tasmania right now – but I also go months without drinking. When I was a 20-something newspaper reporter, I remember coming home to my soon-to-be ex-husband and fixing myself a tall glass of liquor. I really was unhappy. I didn’t like the real world.

But, like I said, you can drink yourself stupid, exercise like a maniac, lose yourself in a novel, go to every music festival you can or set up a tent in the wilderness, but you can’t escape the real world. The trick, then, is creating your own reality.

Remember, you got to keep it real, compared to what? What do you want your life to look like? I have a friend who has traveled as a digital nomad for years and is embarking on a career to coach other people to do the same thing. As a fellow life coach, I encouraged her to do what she dreamed of … even if she was nervous about it. She should go for it, just as you should go for whatever you are thinking about doing. Why? Because your real world is what you make it. 

That’s right! You make your own reality. If you’re not happy with it, there’s no one to blame but yourself. And on the other hand, if you are happy with the real world, guess what: High fives all around! Look, I’m not saying this is easy. But it’s possible.

Two years after that suit photo … I learned how to sail, sold all my stuff and left on a worldwide traveling adventure, which continues. I created a new reality, and you can too!

The first step is accepting your current state of affairs – which is no small undertaking, believe me. You need to take a good, hard look at the life you’ve created for yourself. Figure out what you like and what you don’t like. The way to do that is through detachment. Take a step back and be honest. Figure out what it is that makes you unhappy, what makes you want to escape to a fantasyland? 

The next step, then, is to start building that fantasyland. What is stopping you from living in your own reality? You already are. Time to make it even better. The foundation for reality is your own thoughts. They create your attitude, your belief system and your ideas. That’s on which you can build your behaviors. Continued behavior is how you make habits. Habits are the process for life. What you do every day, what you see, who you talk with and what you think about it all is your reality. It’s time to get real with yourself!