Welcome to the Real World (A Short Story)

Monday, February 08

By Mihi

At one point in our childhoods we all want to grow up so badly. We convince ourselves that growing up will fix everything. Whether it’s because we want to finally be able to wear makeup or if we want to be able to cross the street by ourselves. And then a few years later it’s 11 p.m. and you’re struggling to stay awake while completing a science fair project that’s due tomorrow. And the whole time you’re mad at yourself for procrastinating and you think to yourself how badly you wish to be 3 years old again. Spending your days just eating, sleeping and playing. And that’s when it hits you that you took those days for granted but you can never get them back. All we have left are the memories of our childhood. Remembering them is like a brisk wind that you breathe in and it reminds us of that one day the whole family got together including our long distance cousins and had dinner. Or that one time we sat under the blanket of stars with our families laying on the grass whilst fighting with mosquitoes. As much as we all love those memories it’s also a harsh awakening. Wake-Up! You’re in the real world now.

I wake up to the feeling of someone pushing me off their shoulder. As I open my eyes I realize I’m on the train. It happens to be my first day at NYU and of course I start the morning sleeping on a stranger’s shoulder. As much as I wish my parents were here with me as if it were the first day of first grade I know they’d never leave our family home in Deadwood, South Dakota.  As much as I loved everyone there, it was a pretty depressing place and I just couldn’t wait to get out of there. Today kind of was like the first day of first grade in some ways. It’s windy and rainy today just like that day. And just like that very day, I’m extremely nervous. But at least that day my parents held my hands and walked me inside. Today all I have to comfort me is imagining them next to me. As the train comes to a halt I struggle to get all my things. One of my biggest fears has always been losing my belongings. I stood up and struggled to reach an open door. I remember hearing up how glamorous NYC is when I was younger but the most glamorous experience I’ve had so far was someone holding the door for me. I told everyone I’d be acting in Broadway one day and how the lines for tickets would be as far as 5 blocks. I even convinced myself how everyone would be dying to watch me on that stage and I’d move my whole family here too. And that’s the saddest part. The fact that I really believed it at one point. 

I’m not exactly complaining though, I got myself here but under different circumstances. I’m studying to be an accountant but don’t ask why because I wouldn’t have an answer for you. Getting out of the subway was definitely a relief because it was starting to get difficult to breathe. The rain was absolutely pouring and it was getting hard to hold my umbrella and all these books at the same time. At one point walking felt more like floating. Each store and group of people I walked past just made me sadder and sadder. I could remember a childhood memory that related to every single thing I could see. 

The makeup salon was by far the hardest slap of nostalgia I’ve felt so far. I feel like for most girls one of the coolest moments as a little girl is when an older girl does our makeup for the first time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an older cousin, sister, aunt, or your brother/sister’s girlfriend. It makes us feel like a grown adult and it’s just one of the best feelings in the world. I remember when I was around 7 years old my parents both worked that day so my older brother watched my baby sister and I. He had to work on a group project so they all came over that day. I remember watching one of the girls fix their makeup and I was absolutely mesmerized. Watching her apply eyeliner and fix her lipstick completely overwhelmed me with adoration and curiosity. She saw me staring and asked if I wanted some and I did not hesitate to say yes. So that was the first day I wore makeup. I thought about that moment for months.

I stop walking as I realize I already walked past where I was supposed to. Just what I need today. Slightly aggravated, I turn around and start walking again. I start to feel really stupid in case someone noticed but everyone seems to be lost in their own thoughts. When I finally got to the right place I walked in and the first thing I pay attention to is what it smells like. I’ve always associated things with their smells which just made it easier for me to remember them. Right now I smell rain, the smell of fresh books and cigarettes. It definitely isn’t the best set of smells but I still won't be forgetting it. The first thing I had to do was get my ID picture taken. I filled out the sheet first but after writing Lydia which is my first name, I already start to feel tired. It definitely took a while but after getting my picture taken I walk out and the first thing I do is drop my coffee in the middle of the doorway. 

Let me just say you would not believe the embarrassment I feel right now. How is it possible to mess up so many times on my first day. I figured someone would stop and help me clean it up but everyone just watched and then walked over the coffee puddle which just happened to be another rude awakening. If this is the universe messing with me I’d just like to make it clear that I get it! Today is not my day. After soaking up as much coffee as I could I was feeling exhausted enough and as I started to walk away I could still feel the stickiness from the coffee on the floor. I make my way to the bathroom trying my best to avoid another frustrating situation. I closed the door behind me and for some reason I couldn’t get the zipper on my jacket down. I seriously can’t handle this today. As stressed as I started to feel it also reminded me of another memory. Although this one wasn’t as fun. When I was in 3rd grade we used to get outdoor recess. Usually we weren’t allowed to go out on the colder days but it didn't get cold till later. So we all went out and my friends and I were playing freeze tag in the far corner of the playground because that was kind of our spot. After a while everyone including the teachers began to notice how it started to get colder so they told us to zip up and that we’re all going to go back inside. As I was zipping up my jacket it got stuck on the t-shirt I was wearing underneath and I ended up freezing my ass off because I couldn’t get the zipper up. Luckily we went back inside soon after but those had to be the coldest 10 minutes of my life.

I was able to get through the rest of my day with no more awkward situations. Well except for when I took the wrong train on my way back to get lunch. I had sushi for lunch and now I know how much I hate sushi. It took everything for me not to throw up my lunch because I didn’t want to seem rude. When I got back to my apartment all my unpacked boxes were scattered everywhere. I didn’t even have the energy to clean up. 

I don’t think anyone is ever ready to grow up. It’s just something that happens and sometimes we don’t even realize that it happened. One day we’ll wake up in our beds but it won’t feel like we’re in our own beds. It’s going to feel like we’re in a stranger’s house because the only place we’ll ever feel completely safe and cozy in is the house that we grew up in. The house we lived in with our parents and our siblings. Because one day when we have to go out in the real world without them for the first time, that’s when we’ll realize how different it feels. We’ll realize why our parents always held our hands when crossing the street. Why they always told us not to talk to strangers. Why they always told us not to open the door ourselves when we hear the bell ring. 

Now we’re here crossing the street by ourselves and we stop and wonder why we didn’t hear our parents say “Give me your hand” and we come to the realization that it’s just us now. When we’re watching Spongebob on TV because we miss the smallest bits of our childhood and the doorbell rings and we’re too scared to open it because mom said we’re not allowed to open the door by ourselves. Or when you wake up with a headache and there’s no one to put a cold towel over your forehead so now we have to take care of ourselves. When we’re at the doctor’s office and the doctor asks you “so what’s wrong today” and you’re just waiting for your mom to answer for you but then you realize this time you have to actually answer the doctor yourself. 

As a kid we don’t realize a lot of the small things that we will end up missing one day. Like when you say that cartoons are for children and you’re not a child anymore but then one day you find yourself watching them just to find some comfort. We overlook so many things in our lives and don’t even realize it till the day it’s just a faded memory. That’s why sometimes people tell you to keep a diary so when you’re in a situation where you miss something, you can always remember it with the flip of a few pages. Waking up has always been the least favorite part of my day and unfortunately today I proved to myself that waking up could get even worse. 

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