Attack of the Phantom Stress: Welcome to The Real World

I graduated. It’s been fun. It’s been real. No, wait, not that…that comes with joining The Real World. And along with graduation comes a host of unsettling events they don’t tell you about when you sign up to pay your entire life savings…or at least the one you would have made in the future…

Things They Don’t Tell You About The Real World:

Attack of the phantom stress. You are dozing in the early morning. It is peaceful. You are dreaming of golden afternoons, lemonade, and the birds chirping through the open window. Suddenly your dream takes a nasty turn. You are struck by a vague but very insistent feeling that Something is not right Something is not right Something is wrong. You wake up, sweating, heart pounding, wrapped in sheets, reaching desperately for an alarm clock that isn’t there, shouting, “What day is it? What’s due today? How much did I oversleep? Where are my pants?” Then, as you come to, out of your groggy sleep-induced panic, you realize several things.

1. There is no homework due today, because

2. It is Sunday, and

3. You have graduated.

You lie on your back wide awake, staring at the alarm clock you finally found, watching it blink  7:02.    7:02.    7:02.   You do this for several hours while the adrenaline, which served you so well when going deep-sleep-to-shower in 4 seconds flat on a school morning, has a party in your veins.

Housing deposits. The school who has taken so much of your time, your young adulthood, your sweat, your tears, your desperate pleas for mercy and assignment extensions and better grades than you deserve, and most of all has taken your money, oho yes has it taken your money!—this same school has the gall to deliver an envelope to your high school self’s old home address. It is a check, addressed to you. It is the original housing deposit you paid four years ago when you were youthful, carefree, and starry-eyed with the future. It is worth less than 1% of the loans you took out to pay for your education. You open the envelope and laugh hysterically for five minutes, then use it to pay a quarter of the rent.

Laundry. It’s always awkward. You move out of the dorms where you have been living as an admittedly lame senior in college. Along with the bright and hopeful views in The Real World, you’ve been hoping for a new setting for washing clothes. Alas. Your apartment building, where you are living as a capable, confident, independent adult (read: staying up way too late watching Youtube videos because you can), has a laundry room. Which means you can still pay too much to be able to wave your underwear around in front of everyone!

Citing your sources: an exercise in futility. In academia, if you don’t cite your sources, you get points off. In the Real World, the bleary-eyed intern (yes, that’s you) spends hours on the internet wasteland, fact-checking obscure author claims about heart failure and stress, using websites that are somehow both free and scholarly. Like you don’t already know these answers first hand…

Some things never change, I guess. Hooray to the graduates!

The Real World: it’s not as different as we thought.

photo credit:


15 thoughts on “Attack of the Phantom Stress: Welcome to The Real World

  1. I so miss your good sense of humor in my life. I feel like we bleary eyed, fact-checking interns catch an inordinate amount of unverifiable information and non-scholarly sources which we would have been failed for trying to slip into our Comp II papers. Glad to know we’re all overqualified to be Real World authors now.

    • Absolutely. We’re so overqualified it’s ridiculous. Okay, maybe not that much, or pride cometh.
      I just did it again today, though: are you SURE you want to make that claim? [I want to ask the author.] Because I can see the scholars tearing it apart with their teeth…
      (But, being the lowly intern, I don’t get to say this to the author, just mark it and then find evidence for it myself…Huzzah.) Thanks for commenting Ashley!

  2. This is delightful, and SO TRUE! I would add that in addition to the housing deposit, it’s hilarious to get those letters from our alma mater (of three weeks) asking for money. I’ve gotten four such letters already. They must have forgotten that I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pay the money I already owe them.

    • Haha–yes, I got one of those too! The irony was…so much I can’t even find a good metaphor for it.
      I think they need to time it until several years AFTER I’ve paid my loans off, so all the good feelings about said alma mater will have returned. Or maybe after I’ve inherited millions…from a long-lost grandparent…who doesn’t exist…never mind.
      Thank you for reading! 🙂

      • I love reading! Thank YOU for posting!
        I’m rather fond of this long-lost grandparent idea. Perhaps said hypothetical grandfather owned a Downton Abbey-esque estate, which is now yours, in addition to the title of Lady Elena. Quite lovely, I think.

  3. Very funny! Elena. You write to the heart. The Real World is impossible
    without Grace and a good sense of humor, of which you have been blessed with both.

  4. I STILL have phantom stress, waking up wondering what day it is and what’s due…does it ever go away?
    Let us know when you can pay people less money to wave your underwear in front of everyone; everyone needs to find ways to save money.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • That is NOT. GOOD. NEWS. I am counting on this going away.
      Hahahaha. And I think I’ll keep to waving my unmentionables in the expensive laundry rooms…
      Thank YOU for reading and commenting! It makes me happy.

  5. I have tried to make friends with stress, but stress is very fickle and untrustworthy. I have put stress in the closet but stress is a shape-shifter and oozes out when I least expect. Now you are telling me it could be imaginary. I need another Boundary waters trip to ponder life without stress.

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