Guest Bloggers

Reader Rants: Remember when we were all nostalgic? – Gabriel Brawley

Gabriel is a grown up. I am not. When I do grown up things like pay the mortgage or make an appointment at the doctor’s office or go the entire night without pooping the bed, I want to jump out of my chair (or bed) and yell “YEAH! I DID IT! I’M A BIG GIRL!”

Gabriel doesn’t do that. And not just because he’s not a girl.

I’m not particularly nostalgic about childhood, but I’m a little confused about when that ends and adulthood begins. I don’t feel like an adult… ever. Never ever. Gabriel does. And he thinks it’s pretty bad ass.

Not only that, but he doesn’t mention boobies once in this article! (He does mention gin, though, so I knew it wasn’t a forgery.)

The Real World

by Gabriel Brawley

I took my final exam in business law on Monday. It was the last class I needed and now I should be able to sit for the CPA exam. I had a half hour to kill after work and before the test so I went to a bar near campus and had two martinis. I only needed a 36 to get a B in the class so I wasn’t worried.

While I was drinking I started to think about “The real world”.

All my life I was told how easy I had it and how when I got out to “the real world” I would be shocked or eaten alive.


When I was in grade school, Jr. High and High School I had to raise my hand and get permission to leave the class room and take a piss. I was told when I could eat and most of the time what I could eat. The day was broken into very artificial time blocks. I had almost no autonomy and really wasn’t allowed to refuse to do anything. Yet I was constantly told by teachers, parents and other adults that I was living the best time of my life and that the real world was going to be so much harder and I would wish I was a kid again when I got out into the real world.

In school I had to deal with lazy or incompetent teachers. Most were petty tyrants who would ridicule ignorance. Their job was to teach us and relieve that ignorance. I also had to deal with bullies because the school couldn’t be bothered to stop it.

When I graduated high school I was warned that life was about to get a lot harder. That college was the real world and that college wouldn’t coddle me the way that high school had.


College was better than elementary, Jr or Sr. High. Yes the work was harder but I wasn’t required to turn in reams of busy work on a daily basis. I didn’t have to request permission to use the restroom. Professors were sometimes lazy and incompetent but that wasn’t the rule any longer. If I absolutly despised a class or a professor there were ways to get out of that class.

In college I didn’t have to deal with bullies and I didn’t have to deal with teachers who were angry at the world for their lot in life. I was treated like a responsible adult not and idiot child who couldn’t be trusted with the sharp scissors.

But in college I was often told that I sitll wasn’t in the real world and that when I left I would be eaten alive and the real world would be almost impossible to deal with.


I graduated in 1995 and went to work in a maximum security prison for 2 years and the was a parole officer for 9. So now I was making more money than in college and didn’t have to do homework anymore. When the workday was over I was done. The rest of the time was mine.

Then I was told that I still wasn’t living in the real world because I worked in a public job and was employed by the government. I was told time and again that if I ever left the government and got a real job in the real world I would be eaten alive.


I came back from my deployment to Kuwait in 2006. 5 months later I left the government’s employ for a position in the private sector.

I make more money, have a better future, am treated with more respect and have more freedom than anytime in my life up till this point. I have finished taking classes for my CPA license and will go back to finish my masters degree when I have my license.

The real world is great. I love it and don’t know why anyone would pine for the days of childhood.

Gabriel is 38 and the father of 3 teenagers: two sons and one daughter. He was a single father with custody of the kids for about 5 years and then re-married. He graduated from Midwestern State University in Texas in 1995. He worked as a correctional officer at a max security prison for two years and was a parole officer for 9 years. He was in the Navy reserve for 8 years and did a deployment to Kuwait in 2005. He is an accountant now and have just today received permission to sit for the CPA exam. Gabriel decided he was an atheist when he was 19 but it was a decision he had been struggeling with for many years.

The Skepchick Reader Rants, posted every Wednesday at 3PM Eastern, is a feature where you, the Skepchick readers, get to tell the Skepchick community what you think about whatever you want!  To be considered, please submit an original rant, preferably unpublished anywhere else, to skepchick(at)skepchick(dot)org with the subject: My Rant.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Excellent post! I have to admit, I sometimes yearn for those childhood days (particularly summer holidays) when you could frolic through the neighbourhood all day, then someone would feed you & clean your clothes at night so you could do it all again the next day. I don’t so much frolic in my day job (not the office part of it, anyway), and at night I have to look after people. I wish I were still young enough to think that becoming an Olympic champion was still an attainable goal. I wish I still had all the time in the world to learn and perfect my musical abilities (if you really knew me back then, you’d know that I was terminally lazy & never practiced, so now I regret not having taken advantage of all that TIME). I miss having a 9-3 “work” day.

    But I do like having money to whatever I want, having my own house to decorate as I please, having my own life to direct as I see fit. I don’t think being an adult is any harder or easier than being a kid – the challenges are just different, and the challenges are mostly your own.

  2. I SO AGREE.

    I hated not being an adult, and I love being self-sufficient and doing my own thing, making my own rules, and finding my own way. While there’s always a risk of being “eaten alive” (which, for me, is preferable to being “eaten dead”), the risk/reward ratio is such that I would never go back and I don’t miss childhood whatsoever.

    Adulthood FTW!

  3. I don’t miss being a kid at all. I work for myself so I’m not even responsible to an employer anymore, as long as I pay my rent and taxes on time there’s no one to bug me about anything I do. Could I fail and the “real world” eat me alive? Sure but that’s half the fun.

  4. One of my high-school teachers once told me that I would look back on my school days as the best years of my life.

    He was wrong.

  5. Great rant, Gabriel!

    I think that the nostalgia for childhood is often seen thru the rose-colored glasses of rememberance. We cherrypick the great times and the bad times fade (mostly), but if we look at it realistically (as you have), childhood is not any better (or worse) than adulthood. But, I totally get where you’re coming from, because i heard that line about how tough it was going to be as well. Just a different set of worries now, that’s all.

    I must admit that I really love the freedom of adulthood, and despite the responsibilities, I have a place of my own and can do what I want, when I want, and with whomever (within reason). That’s pretty cool.

  6. I think this passage from Futurama fits on my opinion about adulthood:

    Fry: Melllvar, you can’t let a TV show be your whole life. You can do anything you want. Look at Walter Koenig: After Star Trek, he became an actor.

    Koenig: Not just an actor, but a well-rounded person, with my own friends and credit cards and keys.

  7. I’m certainly nostalgic for certain periods of time when I was a child or experiences but living with my mother was a bit of a chore and there wasn’t much sex back in the day when I was a dependent minor, not to mention the occasional poverty. I had some great teachers, I mean really good, caring and bright ones that had a big impact on me as a person and how I thought about the world, and for that I’m grateful. However I would never ever want to go back or say it was better. Good stuff Gabe.

  8. I make no assumptions about the author, but this rant frequently doesn’t ring true for those of us who aren’t White Male Hetero Cis Abled (etc.)… Hitting the Real World and finding so much more sexism, racism, and discrimination than I ever imagined was heart-breaking.

    Even worse was getting past the blissful self-involvement of those school years and discovering the horrible truths about the hopeless suffering and misery of the Real World. My life may seem better or easier now than in college, but it becomes clearer every day that life in the Real World is actually harder if only due to the loss of ignorance and naivety.

  9. @MinorGroove: As someone who dealt with a LOT of sexism and bullying in school, and who has seen some jaw-dropping shows of racism recently in the Arizona school system**, sometimes it’s just as bad for children as it is for adults in the Real World.

    I was glad to Grow Up because at least then I had some sort of fucking say and didn’t just have to “suck it up” and deal with the bullying from the students and sometimes even my teachers. As an adult, I at least have a chance to be heard.

    I’m not sure I was ever “naive” or “ignorant” of how horrible people can be, and I wasn’t as heavily bullied as many others.

    I think this idea that children are “innocent” or “ignorant” of the real world is wishful thinking. Children are far more aware than you realize.

    ** — I don’t think the children who were depicted on that mural were innocent, ignorant, or naive of the racism that plagues their city and state, especially considering the anti-immigration bullshit going on, but if they were … they sure aren’t now.

  10. @Garrison22: My childhood sucked. I wouldn’t want to go back. I’ve hit some rough patches here and there, but I think I beat most statistics. High school was the WORST because I was poor in a somewhat affluent area, and I was dealing with my sexuality and religion. Not to mention going off the deep end a little bit. I went to my high school reunion this year only because I had convinced myself that I was the only one who remembered the horror that was SHHS 1999.

  11. Man do I love this rant. My childhood can be summed up with one word: Stress.

    It’s not even like I had a horrible family or anything (I have a great family) but the stress I would put on myself between school and social situations? uuugh. I also had to battle some adolescent depression and I was painfully shy.

    Now that I am an adult I am the least stressed I have ever been in my life.

    In fact, I remember graduating from HS and thinking: Thank jeebus this is over!!! My best friend at the time cried because she said the best years of her life were over.

    We are not friends anymore for other reasons so I don’t know how her life turned out but if the best years of your life were high school than I guess your adult life would be pretty damn depressing.

  12. Goodonyer, Gabe!

    Same lies they tell you if you home school. You are “depriving” your children of all those ridiculous things they do to children (and young adults). Also Bullshit.

  13. I remember hearing all of the same things throughout my childhood. “Just you wait. They’re not going to coddle you like this in High School/College/The Real World”.
    A lot of childhood sucked, but a lot of it was amazing. I do get nostalgic for certain periods of my life, but as Elyse says in the preamble, I’m not sure I have ever really ‘grown up’.
    I’ll be 32 next month, I’m married, I pay bills, blahblahblah.
    As @MinorGroove says, there are many disappointments, but that’s why I try to spend time making my little corner of the world a bit better, if I am able. There are a lot of hard truths to accept as we learn more about the world. But rather than sit crippled by those truths, I think it’s important to realize that not everything is awful, and that we should try to make better the things that we can.
    Great job Gabriel!

  14. @ MinorGroove: You are lucky that you went to a school where you had such good experiences. I was beaten up on multiple occasions by groups of boys because of the perception that I was a lesbian. Apparently that made me fair game. And the adults looked the other way. I guess dykes get what they deserve, right? And what could I do? Tattle and get it twice as bad when their suspensions were up? People may say nasty things to me as an adult, but I haven’t been jumped in 20 years.

  15. Well done Gabriel, there’s far too much romanticism about childhood. High School is an artificial, baffling and often deeply unpleasant place for a lot of people.

  16. I never got the rosy-tinted glasses re: high school. I am hearing impaired, so I wear hearing aids. At high school during the junior years, I got made fun of mercilessly. I was also the product of an abusive background, so I went through a lot of crap before I ran away from home at 16.

    I do miss university though. I love learning, and taking exams (probably wouldn’t like going back full-time, however).

  17. Being a kid is just no fun.
    There is something to be said for all the Lego, but it’s still better to be an adult and just build a secret basement for that.

  18. I always hated being a child, and despite the occasional setback my life has been a steady progression into greater and greater happiness.

    Like a lot of the folk here describe (@BeardofPants, @Glow-Orb, @marilove), I went through a lot of misery in school, but in a pretty different way. I was in Catholic school for most of those years, where all the authority figures were women, and the majority of those were of the opinion that girls were smarter than boys, nicer than boys, and just plain better than boys in every aspect, and they weren’t shy about saying this on a daily basis. Plus I was the smallest and the smartest among the boys in my class, so for eight straight years I got beat up on a daily basis (literally). Not once did my assailants get punished, but when I finally fought back (ending a fight with one solid punch to the left eye), I got a week of suspension.

    Kids are mean. They will sieze on anything different about you to make you a target: a tall girl, a short boy, a fat kid, too smart, not smart enough, wrong skin color, anything. It’s a pity that too many people never grow out of that stage.

  19. I think many people look back at their youth (those that had relatively good ones, I mean) and long for things to be “the way that they never really were”…A bit of rose-colored glasses viewing?

    So…people tend to remember the good times and forget the rest…a kind of confirmation bias maybe. I have a background somewhat similar to BeardofPants’ among others here, so I don’t indulge much in that. I didn’t (and still don’t) “live” my life. I more “endure” life, if that makes any sense.

    As far as “not being grown up” goes, I think the happiest adults are those that don’t completely grow up. They’re responsible adults, mind you. They just never quite lose the spirit of playfulness, wonder and experimentation that children have before the educational system beats them out of it…Sort of like Jimmy Buffett’s song, “I’m growing older, but not up.”

    My thought is that these are the most creative, artistic, original thinkers we have. They somehow didn’t internalize the self-consciousness, the fear of making mistakes or looking silly to others, that society tries so hard to inflict on us all.

    Feel free to agree or disagree…

  20. Great rant, even if it doesn’t apply much to me. Being a kid was pretty good, and I don’t remember being told being a grown-up would suck. Apart from reminiscing about the days when I didn’t have to make my own dinner every goddamn day, I don’t indulge much in nostalgia.
    Of course, those dinners were never milkshake and bacon, so even there being an “adult” has perks.

  21. Bjornar- there’s a friend of mine who says that when she was a kid, she always thought that being a grown-up would be great because she could have icecream for breakfast any time she liked.
    Turns out she was entirely right about that one :)

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