When does life get real? Different people would probably give different answers to that question based on what they've seen and where they've come from. Some would say it's when you discover a meaningful purpose for your existence, something to love and hold on to. Others might say it's when you find God or face your biggest fears in life, when you overcome challenges or live up to your full potential.
My father would said it's when you notice how people constantly try to screw you over. It would be easy to write him off as a simple cynic, but he had every reason to be one. He had already seen how various groups tried to fool him into believing they wanted what was best for him, when in reality all they wanted to do was to profit from his misfortune. He had learned from that, he had learned that a valueable quality in every human being is mistrust. Taking care of your own person means being suspicious, especially towards those who talk to you as if you were a friend when in reality they don't even know you.
Maybe, he thought, people are different on the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe those people are honest and well-meaning, maybe I would be better off around them.
And sometimes, he thought, "maybe" is good enough.