In college, it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about “the real world”, or answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. This idea of “the real world” is usually referring to the workplace, or life after school. I think students have this idea in their head that their lives haven’t started yet and they’re only on the cusp of purposeful existence. Recently, God has been teaching me the exact opposite: everyone at every stage of life is living in “the real world”.
This summer, I’m working very closely with middle school students and i have come to realize that they are in a very formative time in life. They’re in what my boss likes to call “the sweet spot” in life. They’re old enough to have some freedom, but young enough where their parents will step in to keep them from making terrible mistakes. Looking back, I feel like I didn’t take advantage of this time in my own life and was constantly wanting to grow up and be in high school.
While in high school, most people just want to be in college. They want to go out and be independent– they dream of living on their own and having a job. I was quite the homebody and didn’t struggle with this as much, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with senioritis in the end.
From what I can see, I think that the college years are where people struggle the most with this idea of wanting to be at a place beyond where they are. This is understandable because college is a place filled with preparation for one’s future, which makes it hard to enjoy the here and now.
But, if God has been teaching me one thing recently, it’s that wherever I am, I need to be all there. In the spiritual sense, I need to enjoy my time with God and the periods of growth that He sends me through even though they’re hard and sometimes unpleasant. In the emotional sense, I miss my friends from school and it’s hard to have fun fully enjoy life without them around. And in the physical sense, it’s hard being away from people but I’m working in a job I love and when I’m in the office, that’s where my attention needs to be.
Overall, I’m learning that where I am now is the real world; it never gets more real than the here and now. Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that all I want is to have a family of my own someday, but that is far in the future. Working with these middle school students makes me realize that life is short, and at all stages of life God’s people need to focus on serving Him where they are not where they picture themselves in five years.