“Yes, but you’re brave,” she said, right after she discounted any so-called life experience I may have because I’m only in my late 20s.
There are so many things wrong with that sentence I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s start with life experience. I’ll get to bravery in a later post. I once heard it said that by the time you reach the age of 23, you will have enough life experience to last your entire life. I don’t know why 23, and I can’t remember who said it, but I remember that single phrase stuck with me deeply. Why? Because it’s so freaking true. And it’s time to speak out.
Is anyone else tired of grown-ups completely discounting all the experiences of the young? You know, how everyone talks about the “real world” versus the world of school. The “real world” versus life in college. Oh just wait until you get into the real world you 8th grader, you, then you’ll actually be able to start understanding life. As though all the good times are unreal and no one can ever experience sadness or heartbreak or disappointment before the age of 50.
Does anyone else think there’s something so wrong with that? Apparently, according to a LOT of people, surprisingly enough, kids are not allowed to have experiences. In fact, kids are probably just a bunch of little stupid, emotionless, unbreakable robots trotting along in a perfect fairy-land of rainbows and sunshine and everything going their way, right? Until they get to the real world, of course.
The real world, according to popular theory, seems to be a land where all you can hope for is bitterness and disappointment and stress. Where you have to toe the line and hate your job and give up hope. It’s a place where an old, rusty, dirty sign swings on its hinges in the desert breeze and says “Welcome to Real World,” in faded letters.
Now imagine hearing that as a child, much less an abused child, having real life experiences that many fortunate adults will never have to face. Imagine hearing that you know nothing about the real world, while behind closed doors you’re being beaten? Imagine being told you have no life experience, your emotions are stupid and childish and that you should be grateful for the fantasy life you are living (aka that mystical “innocence of childhood” thing I’ve never witnessed before). Imagine hearing that from people other than your abusers. All those people, just supporting what the person beating you already tries to force you to believe. Now throw seven surgeries on top of that before the age of 24. Still nothing yet? Still not familiar with the real world? Still no life experience yet?
But seriously, the real world? What other world is there?
Especially to a child who wished, for just one minute, she could escape the harsh reality of the real world. Because maybe some kids know what the real world means more than any adult could ever dream of in a nightmare.
Now think about it. Each emotion, each experience, each moment in the real world (which exists from birth onwards, by the way) is almost more real for a kid than for anyone else. It’s their first time to experience it. And hey, even teenagers, who sometimes annoy the crap out of us (love you guys!), experience serious emotions and heartbreak.
Has anyone ever heard of the curse of the junior year? That junior year in high school where at least a few kids always seem to die? Whether by car accident or drug overdose or whatever else it may be?
Has anyone ever heard of unrequited love? Ya, kids experience that too. Has anyone ever heard of getting picked last, not making the team, being forgotten about by parents, parents going through divorce, being injured playing sports, working hard all day at school and then on your homework at night? What’s that, if not the day-to-day reality of youth?
My point is, all life is REAL life, no matter at what age you live it. All life is life experience. So STOP discounting a person’s experience just because of their age! I don’t think there is anything more heartbreaking or demoralizing to anyone at any age than to be told your opinions and feelings don’t matter and don’t count.
But, as a society, that is exactly what we are telling people. So let’s all just stop it shall we? It’s hard enough going through puberty and trying to make friends and getting talked about behind your back, so let’s not tell people that’s nothing, all right?
On another note, maybe we should also reconsider how we define the real world. It involves a lot of heart break and hurt and tough experiences, yes. But it’s not all bad either.