Many of you who read this know that I have always had a not so secret desire to be on the Real World at some point in my life. Something about living with 6 strangers in a foreign city seemed exciting and intriguing and something I wanted to be a part of. I actually went as far as to go to an open casting call a few years back in Boston to no avail. Then I ended meeting someone who filmed the casting tape for her college friend Ruthie (RW Hawaii). I was joking with her about how I was going to apply and stuff and she said to me flat out don’t. She said you get sucked into a cycle of reality shows and appearances and never go back to living your life. So against my own personal judgment I didn’t apply for the upcoming final season of the Real World.
But what I did do was come here to Australia on study abroad. It just happened that the same time I’m here they are filming the 19th and second to last season here in Sydney. We’ve run into them a few times and seen them out and about, but I’ve come to realize something. I’m here in Australia living with at least 6 strangers, and it is very much real. If not more so than the ‘Real World’. Last night during a late night conversation with one of the girls here I said half the stuff probably wouldn’t make it on air because of how real it is. (Not graphic, just intense conversations)
I’ve talked before about how I feel at times that I’m back in high school and/or freshmen year of college. I was frustrated at the time with having to explain myself to other people or defend my actions to people who I barely knew. But now I see that high school and freshmen year of college were probably some of the most formative years of my life. The same is true for these past few months. By explaining myself to others I’ve really begun to understand who I am. These ‘strangers’ (honestly who’s stranger than me ) have helped me to see sides of me that I may not have seen before. When you are around people who have known you your whole life there are parts of you they don’t see. It takes removing yourself from the context to truly dive into who YOU really are.
Everyone one of us is a character in our own way. First, there is the quiet, removed one who doesn’t really open up to the entire group. She is very proud of who she is and stands up for what she believes in. She can be very sensitive about things and is very close to people back home. Sometimes her beliefs get mixed with emotion and can come off as arrogant and she ends up stepping on toes. Next one is the crazy carefree one. She is loud, outgoing, knows how to have a good time, and has few worries besides what her drink of choice for the evening is going to be. She lives in the moment but also has a plan about where she wants to be in 10 years and how to get there. Her best advice is do what you got to do and don’t regret the decisions you have to make. They make you who you are. Then there is the girl who needs to open up but can’t. She’s experienced things that many of us have never experienced and is very much invested in things that are going on back at home. She is physically here, but her head and heart are still home. She is a strong independent woman, and puts everyone else first, which I think is tearing her up inside. She struggles with being who she is without feeling like she has abandoned her family. Up next is your typical hot shot. The guy who thinks his shit don’t stink and that the world rolls out a red carpet at his feet. Every girl he meets ‘is checking me out hardcore’. He’s one of those guys who thinks that he is everyone’s best friend the minute he meets them, but probably isn’t. Then there is the kid who wants to be the cool guy. He follows him around and picks up on his mannerisms and sayings. If they aren’t together the poser is calling cool guy to figure out what he is doing. Worst of all he’s got beer muscles. After a few drinks this kid could take out the world heavy weight champion with one punch. Then there’s a girl who comes from east no where and isn’t really comfortable with herself. She tries too hard to fit in and somehow just doesn’t. She thinks that if she throws herself at guys they will like her and perhaps it fulfills some hole inside she has, but it usually turns more people off than anything. Her heart is in the right place, but she just needs to be herself. Last but not least, there is the guy who everyone gets along with and likes hanging out with. He’s a happy go lucky guy who has passions and goals and is comfortable in his own skin. He’s confident, but not cocky and knows how to have a good time any night of the week. Oh and he is the world pinball champion.
And then there’s me. In the past couple weeks something has happened that I’ve really become comfortable with myself, I’ve started to get ‘it’. I consider myself a very go with the flow person. I try not to sweat the petty things (or pet the sweaty things) and let things roll of my back. But sometimes you realize that you can’t take life too lightly. There are things that need to be taken seriously and if you leave your life completely to the roll of a dice or the deal of the cards, you’re never guaranteed to get what you want. You have to make decisions, even if there hard. You need to take risks, even if there is a possibility of failure. You need to be willing to make mistakes and possible hurt yourself, but know that you grow and become a stronger person by making those mistakes and correcting them, not repeating them. You have to be in control of your own destiny and your own happiness and not rely on others too much. It’s very important to have a strong support system for those times you do fall of the horse and need some help getting back up, but if you rely too heavily on them, you’re going to fall on your face when the first time you are alone.
Well then what is my character? I guess I’d be the guy who always makes jokes. Whether it’s to break the ice or cut the tension, I’m always making an inappropriate comment, doing a Julia Child impression or slipping into a Southern accent to make people laugh. I’d be the guy who people talk to when they have a problem, and the one to take care of people when they have had too much to drink. I guess I’d be the dad. In my sociology class, we were asked the question who are you? When someone asks you who are you, what do you say? My first answer was Shawn Wolfgang, but sociologically thinking we were talking about ethnicity, nationality, and other identity markers. I said I was American and American for the first two. In reality, ethnically, I guess you could say I’m a mutt. A little Irish, a little German, some French Canadian, some Polish, and a whole lot more I’m sure. But I don’t really associate closely with any of those. Of course I’m 100% Irish on St Patty’s Day or 100% German at Oktoberfest, but I don’t speak the languages, I don’t have any cultural customs that I recognize on a regular basis, and so I consider myself 100% American.
They say you don’t really appreciate things until you lose them. I didn’t really ‘lose’ America, but I miss a lot of the things that are associated with America. I find in defending myself to Australians really figuring out what it means to be American. America means good food; burgers, pizza, and bagels. America means great holidays; Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day. America means freedom. Even though I may not agree with the decisions of our president or some of the moral majority beliefs, I am free to disagree with them and they are free to have their opinions and beliefs. Here in Australia you get a fine if you do not go and vote on Election Day. Students I spoke with say they go and check off whatever or write in friends or Mickey Mouse just to avoid the fine. Although voting rates are nothing to brag about, in America, we have the right to go and decide the people who we trust to run our country. We also have the right, the freedom, to choose not to vote. America is home, and no matter how far away I travel around the world, I will always come home to America, because nothing beats it in the world. There are a lot of things that could be better, but every country (like everybody) has their own issues.
So besides being American I am:
An older brother
A music fan
Honest (sometimes brutally)
A team player
Confident (most of the time)
And I guess above all else, I am who I want to be.
There is only about 6 weeks left here in Australia and I’m going to live it up. I doubt I will ever get another experience like this again. I came into this looking to have a good time and have gotten so much more out of it. The group dynamic has made huge impact on my reflections while I’m here. I have made some great friends who no doubt will continue to be a part of my life for years to come. I’ve met some people who have helped me to re-evaluate my beliefs and my goals and although they may not be a part of my life in the future, they should know that they have helped to guide me on this path called life. I believe that life is a series of questions. You ask the questions to get ‘the answer’. Sometimes you get partial answers and sometimes you get more questions, but if we don’t ask the questions, then there is no possibility of the answer. So ask the tough questions and you will get the answers you are looking for. At least we can hope so.
"La La La La Life is wonderful" - Jason Mraz