I attended a friend’s wedding last month. He was an old classmate from my undergraduate days, so it was also an opportunity for a little reunion with other classmates who’ve also chosen to leave our beloved country in search of greener pastures.
One thing that was unique about this classmate of mine, back in school, was his complete grounding in reality; wise beyond his years and always able to give sound advice that was lacking within that demographic. So steeped in reality was he that he couldn’t bear seeing a movie where an animal was talking or acting human. It was too unrealistic for him. He had limited patience for fantasies.
Well, I was reminded of his wisdom while interacting with his friends at the wedding, many of whom share his penchant for realistic thinking. One of them got a friend and I talking about Nigerians in diaspora, and how many of us not only write the country off, but also go abroad to start leading unrealistic lives. “How can you drive around in an $80,000 car when the reality is that your mum — who sacrificed a lot to contribute to getting you where you are — is sick and lonely back home?”
You don’t hear this kind of thinking every day or get involved in these kinds of conversations with millennials often, so it definitely got me thinking about my next article. Thinking about how we can completely ignore our realities sometimes and chase after fantasies. We even go further, sometimes, to demand that those fantasies become our reality.
It’s a common way of shirking responsibilities while blaming outside forces for the consequences of our actions (or inaction). But the thing about reality is that it always comes back for a wake up call, no matter how long you choose to ignore it. So we best be grounded in reality, handling the tough areas of life that are so tempting to ignore. I thought of 3 ways to do this – to stop chasing after fantasies, and embrace the realities of life.
Work with principles and not against them
There are natural laws or principles that govern us in the universe. The law of gravity is an example. If you step off the corner of a roof, no one will come around to make sure that you have a nasty fall. That punishment is already built into the law itself, so it’s bound to happen.
In the same way, there are certain timeless principles of life. In general, those who refuse to work are going to find it hard to come by food to eat, for example, but many still insist that they’re the exception to this rule, and feel entitled enough to keep asking the state or some family members to take care of their needs while they refuse to lift a finger. ‘Change is the only constant in life’ may sound cliché, but it’s a true guiding principle. We can’t keep doing the same things, at work for example, without keeping up with the times and tweaking our methods and then be surprised when we’re naturally run out of business.
My article, These 3 Laws Are Currently Working For or Against You compares three laws in physics to real life principles and shows how to take advantage of them to better your reality. We can’t afford to keep living in a world of fantasy, ignoring all the important laws and principles. Because if you’re not working with them, they’re surely working against you.
Drink but don’t get drunk
Substance abuse is another common way to escape reality. Getting high, getting drunk, getting stoned. Whatever ensures that you’re not in control of your senses at the time. We all know how dangerous drunk-driving is. Reality comes and smacks you right in the face behind your steering wheel. Also, there are many other real life consequences of substance abuse. Your family feels the hurt. Your work suffers. You may become a social pariah and hence hinder your future opportunities.
To be grounded in reality means being in control of your senses at all times; being in touch with the real world and its real life consequences. Engaging in activities that suspend that control isn’t a good idea, as you don’t know what real life consequences are lurking in the corner waiting for you to make the wrong move — just that one time! We’re to live life in moderation. A very hard thing to do, but with very positive and lasting outcomes.
Avoid tackling problems that are much bigger than you
One way to ignore the problems that need fixing in our own lives is to focus on bigger problems that really don’t affect us directly. We saw this when Donald Trump was the US president. He seemed to be the topic of discussion at every social gathering. People bitterly complained about his excesses while a few lauded his efforts. You got the sense that everyone was a saint. No one had their own personal problems anymore. They were all fixed and it was now time to help Trump fix his. After he left office, I often wondered if many marriages crashed because there wasn’t a common topic of discussion between couples anymore.
Focusing on huge world problems we can’t fix, like climate change, foreign wars, the excesses of certain politicians and the greed of capitalism, should be suspended until we’ve fixed our own personal problems. How’s your family doing? Are your children friendly to one another? Is your wife mad at you? How’s she getting along with your mother? What about your job? Are you learning new skills? Finding ways to increase your income? What’s your relationship with God like? Do you treat people kindly, or look down on some?
It’s when we’re avoiding the hard real life problems that directly impact our lives, that we tend to focus on made-up ones. It’s much easier to focus on the external than to look inwards. It’s much easier to point fingers at others, blaming them for where you’ve ended up in life than to evaluate the mistakes you’ve made, and the times you ignored real life consequences and went against timeless principles.
Fantasies may be good for a time. Day-dreaming offers some temporary relief from the drudgery of life but dwelling on it dangerous. Mad people are those who’ve created an alternate reality for themselves — a fantasy — and have decided to live in it. The result isn’t pretty. We must catch ourselves when we begin to lead lives that are not true to our current realities.
My wise friend was good at this in school. While students were being students — doing everything else but studying — I still remember him leaning against the balcony railing, giving you a quick smile while quietly ruminating over what he’d just read, in preparations for exams. He knew that a student was first a student before they were anything else the school environment had to offer. He was completely grounded in that reality. So steeped in it that he wasn’t willing to make a trade of it for the fleeting half-bred pleasures of student life. It’s a blessing to have such good sense at such a young age, but the older we get, the quicker we must realise that facing reality is the grown-up thing to do.