Photo: Young Hearts | Author: Pauline Skewes | Publication: Young Hearts
I remember this one teacher I had at my high school. (Let’s hypothetically call her Mrs. Stephenson for privacy reasons). Mrs. Stephenson was tall with short dark frizzy hair. She wore a constant frown on her bitter face. She was never pleasant to be around and I was confident at the time that I was to learn absolutely nothing from this woman. She would often make threats at my classmates and I about ‘the real world’. Referring to our high school lives as the ‘easy days’ and would warn us all of the big bad universe that was waiting for us after we stepped out of our high school gates for good. I remember being scared and naïve about the future, angry how Mrs. Stephenson refused to provide some upbeat words of wisdom instead. But little did I know, that it would be Mrs. Stephenson I would learn from the most.
I finally found myself initially suffering from the normal angst of entering ‘the real world’. Wandering along the winding road of independence and adulthood, smack bang in the middle of new words like – jobs, rent and relationships. All the while, trying to still figure out amongst it all, what my dreams were actually made of. Suddenly, there were many decisions to be made, paths to choose, things to loose, hearts to be broken and lessons to learn. And as my shoulders grew heavier and heavier, I was beginning to think that Mrs. Stephenson was right after all. Everything was a little bit scary out here.
It’s funny, when I was a little girl, all I ever dreamed about was a pool in my backyard to cool off during summer, to be allowed to play with my friends on the streets till it became dark and getting a shiny sticker on my homework to assure me that I was doing the right thing. Then I grew a little older and all I dreamed about then was having fun on the weekends, talking on the phone all night and finding self worth on the reflection of the million and one friends I had. But after walking out of those high school gates, ‘the real world’ ultimately changed my dreams once again.
My heart grew bigger and my skin became thicker. I started to dream about finding a house with a white picket fence and making it a home, I wanted to soar off, high into the blue skies and land in different parts of the world to explore and find different places and different people, but most of all, I wanted to fall madly in-love. I quickly realised that those scary words I learned – jobs, rent and relationships were not that scary after all. That it is these exact things that goes hand-in-hand to living out my dreams. I wished Mrs. Stephenson said this to me instead – ‘If you work hard and love hard, the world is yours. So go and get it!’
I recently blew out 25 candles on my birthday cake and as I grew a little older and a little wiser, I have learned that the tools I need to survive ‘the real world’ are the many things I was taught from the very beginning. As a little girl my parents would tell me to look after my things, to share, to treat others as I would like to be treated, not to be mean, to forgive and to say sorry to someone when I have hurt them.
And how the same rules apply from when I was first learning to ride my bike back then to chasing my dreams now. How one day I can be pedaling fast along a familiar street of my hometown, no hands, no worries. Then the next minute, a bump on the road causes me to fall off my bike, flat on my face, the gravel scraping my knees and bruising my pride. It is during these crashes I quickly learn that some people will rush to my aide, while others are more than happy to watch me fall. But just like in the real world, the key to chasing your dreams is to get up, wipe the dirt of your knees, bare the pain, hop back on your bike with a smile on my face and continue pedaling.
I thought about Mrs. Stephenson and all the bitter things she would say to me back then. I wondered about how many times she had fallen off her bike. Or perhaps she was one of those that fell off and never got back up? I want to tell her that this real world she warned me about was not that bad after all. That it’s actually full of wondrous things, magical places and people offering everlasting friendships and love. That nothing beats falling in-love with others, let alone learning to fall in-love with yourself. Creating and living out dreams and being excited for the days to come, no matter how scary it may all seem. After all, they say – if your dreams don’t scare you, then they are not big enough. And the truth is, I would rather be scared than dreamless any day!