From as early on as I can remember, adults have enjoyed telling me how good I had it, how lucky I was to luxuriate in the pleasures of being a kid. “You’ve got it easy,” they’d insist. “Just wait until you’re out in the real world and you’ve got real responsibilities.” Like a job and a mortgage and those ungrateful spawn.

There is no end to my loathing for people who use this phrase: “Just wait until you’re out in the real world.” Wow, I didn’t realize I’d been living in a magical fantasy land all that time! In the Real World, forty hours of work is rewarded with money. In the academic world, hundreds of hours of hard work are rewarded with a form letter from a dean you’ve never heard of congratulating you on your accomplishments…and a bill for $40,000. In the Real World, you get a place to live, food, and entertainment. In the academic world you get…a gold star? Hardly a fair trade. AND, I get to pay the school for my labors!

If anything, the elementary school experience most closely prepares you for the working world. Think about it. You do what you’re told, get rewarded for your work, have a juice break in the afternoon, and if you’ve been especially good, you get a cookie (literally—I work near a pastry shop).

Now, I realize we Pandas are fairly privileged individuals. Not privileged as in riding around on yachts and eating caviar in our McMansions with Blair Waldorf, but privileged as in we have roofs over our heads, food in our bellies, and parents who love us. Children growing up in countries where locating fresh water is a daily struggle would happily take the pressure of standardized test performance and running the mile in under ten minutes. (I only point this out so you know I’m not entirely self involved.)

A huge aspect of the comparative ease of adulthood is that you don’t have to use your brain anymore. If I wanted to, I could read nothing but tabloids and watch reality shows all day and never have to encounter new ideas of opposing opinions. Anyone who thought college was easy evidently didn’t study very hard or go to a challenging school. The joy of my “real world” life is how much free time I have. When I leave work at 5, I’m done. There’s no homework or research or frigging statistics problems. My biggest question is what I want for dinner. Or if I should watch Netflix or read a book. Or do both! Granted, I still choose to learn all the time, merely for enjoyment. I think I’ve read more nonfiction for pleasure in the year since I’ve graduated than in all my earlier years combined. It’s simply more entertaining now.

My point is this: Being an adult is awesome. I can stay up late (in theory; in practice I just plain like sleeping), buy and consume alcohol, drive myself anywhere I want to go (though not, I must point out, after consuming said alcohol), pierce or tattoo my body, read books about John Wilkes Booth without taking flak from anyone but K, and dress however I like without ridiculous dress codes outlawing tee shirts featuring Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the slogan “BITE ME.” Basically, being an adult means you’re free to be your own person. If this is the Real World, I think I’ll like it here.

T

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