Perception rarely lines up with reality. It can be painful when our invented reality is shattered by true reality. Sometimes, when our perception of reality is too strong, or true reality is too foreign, we want to turn back the clock. We long for the bliss of illusion.
But you can’t truly go back. You can try, but it won’t work. Because how can you piece together the million shards of a broken window? So you are left with two choices: either embrace reality for what it is or stand in place. But know that even if you’re standing still, everything and everyone keeps moving. If you don’t choose to embrace reality and move forward, you will have lost not only your illusion, but your life.
There is no safety in illusion. There is certainly safety in routine, but not in illusion. What makes the shattering of an illusion so painful is having to adjust. You have to live in uncertainty and discomfort while you discover new boundaries, new limits, new rules – and also new freedoms. The unknown is known to be terrifying.
What Is Illusion?
By hoping, dreaming, imagining, and believing what we’re told, we create these pictures of the world in our mind. Our perceptions and experiences color and shade the pictures. But sometimes a picture starts to take a form that doesn’t truly reflect the world. This is an illusion. It can be both believing that the entire world is against you and that the entire world is with you, behind you, beside you. It can be believing that your parents are madly in love right before you learn of their impending divorce. It can be believing that you simply aren’t qualified enough right before you’re offered the job. Illusions are human and part of life.
Illusion In Context
To draw an example from my own life: I didn’t just dream that university would be a palace of intellect and learning, I was told it would be. I began to get more serious about my self-directed learning in high school, and complained frequently to my friends and family about the lack of rigor and excitement at school. They all assured me that university would be much better. University would be tougher, more engaging, and there would be more people like me there, people hungry for knowledge. It didn’t take long for reality to shatter my illusion. None of my professors seemed to enjoy teaching, some didn’t even seem interested in the class topic. I had massive loads of homework that turned out to be mindless busywork. And my peers were like empty shells, robots. They just did whatever they were told in their best effort to pass each class. I love talking to people whose eyes light up when they talk about something, and I met very few of those people during my two years at university.
It was really hard to accept that I don’t fit into the university mold. I was angry. I felt cheated and lied to. I blamed other people at first: my professors, the university administration, everyone who told me that college would be great. Then I turned that anger inward. I felt naive, even stupid for building and believing my illusion in the first place. I wanted to get back to the bubbly, the-world-is-made-of-cotton-candy mindset I had my first couple weeks of university. But I couldn’t.
After three semesters, I dropped out of college. I had $200 in my bank account, and no idea or plan for what I would do instead. I slept on my friend’s couch and spent most of my days pouting and feeling miserable for myself. And then one day, it was like a light switch flipped on. Life keeps going. Life keeps going even when you want it to wait for sec while you get your shit together. I saw myself somewhat clearly at that moment. I saw that I was paralyzed with disappointment and fear: disappointment that I didn’t find university enriching and fear that I won’t be able to make a good life for myself without a degree. The disappointment was easy to deal with once I identified it. I find self-learning and traveling enriching, so I definitely don’t need university. The fear is something that I’ve decided to turn into empowerment and motivation. A college degree or lack thereof doesn’t define my worth, and I won’t be friends with or employed by anybody who thinks it does.
So now I’m facing the unknown, taking it in strides. There’ve been ups and downs, just like always. I’ve come to love the struggle of marketing and growing my skill set. And I’m certain that this shattered illusion I’ve experienced is just the first of many. I’m excited both for what reality has to offer and also for what it will take from me.