Admit It: You’re Just Making This Up As You Go
I was just a young Catholic school kid sitting in church on Sundays begging God to forgive me every time I thought about sex with one of the girls from school.
Why am I thinking about sex in church!?
I used to think I was so bad.
I used to feel so guilty.
I used to look around at the backs of grownups and think to myself: It must be great being an adult! When I’m one, I’ll FINALLY be a good, disciplined person who pays attention in church!
I was just a young, helpless virgin with no one to talk to about it. I wonder what THAT feels like!, I’d think when Maverick was doing the hibbity-dibbity with Kelly McGillis in “Top Gun.”
I’d watch my mom and stepdad going through life and was certain they had discipline and good behavior on lockdown. They NEVER sinned!
I’d sit at the dinner table at friends’ houses, quietly studying other families and admiring their lives unaffected by messy humanity and dysfunction. They’ve got it all figured out!
When I was a kid, I didn’t know the secret.
I didn’t know everyone else was wearing a mask, too.
When I was a kid, I thought everyone else’s lives were amazing! I had every reason to look forward to adulthood when I wouldn’t make mistakes or feel guilt anymore!
No one gives it to you straight when you’re in grade school, and you’re not smart enough or brave enough to ask the right questions. I didn’t know everyone was having marriage problems, or money trouble, or family drama, or having sex with people they weren’t supposed to or wishing they were.
I didn’t know the secret until I was well into my thirties: We’re all just making this up as we go.
You Are Not Alone
At least some of you can relate somehow to all that young, hormonal, confused kid stuff. At least some of you thought you were going to reach adulthood and have the great “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting for, only to have it dawn on you one day that it never actually comes.
You don’t just wake up feeling like an adult one day.
You always feel just like a scared, confused kid, and realize with horror — maybe after having children yourself — that you ARE an adult, even though you don’t always feel or act like one.
I want you to know you’re not weird.
You’re not the only person who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.
It’s okay to be scared. Almost everyone is. We don’t talk about our fears because we’re afraid people will think we’re wimpy cowards. So we go through life wearing Fake Courage masks and talking to everyone else wearing their Fake Courage masks, and we never learn that we’re mostly all the same underneath. That we all do some version of the same weird stuff in our heads, and we’re not freaky anomalies. Almost everyone gets it, if you’re brave enough to remove the mask and show people what’s underneath.
It’s okay to be confused. Because things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would. Because not even you are who you thought you would be.
It’s okay to be sad. Because you wasted your childhood looking forward to these shittier, adult years, and never knowing enough to think: “Holy shit! I’m a kid! No one needs me for anything! All I have to do is hang out with friends all the time and learn stuff! I should enjoy this while it lasts!”
We were all in such a hurry to grow up.
So we could have fun!
Because we thought drinking beer and having sex and getting into bars and going to Vegas and having a job with a paycheck would be better than playing playground kickball and freeze tag and passing notes in class and sneaking kisses behind the school.
Because we thought having our own money would be better than our parents just giving us some.
God, we were stupid. And by stupid, I really just mean ignorant. It wasn’t our fault.
It’s natural to want to drive a car. And watch R-rated movies. And stay up late. And go to parties. And get those piercings. And wear those clothes.
It’s natural to be curious. To want to try new things. To do things we’re not supposed to.
It’s natural to want what we can’t have. To look AND touch. To taste the forbidden fruit.
I’m not Buddhist, but I admire greatly the way Buddhism recognizes the value gained from our desires and pursuits. Even though acquiring or achieving those things fail to bring us palpable happiness or any perceived value, the experience brings us value. The garnering of wisdom from chasing and getting, followed by the lack of long-term fulfillment afterward.
That knowledge and wisdom gained serves us for life.
We didn’t fail just because our lives aren’t like we thought they’d be.
This was inevitable.
Behaving like human beings and suffering the consequences was inevitable.
That’s what’s real. That’s what people have always done. That’s what people will always do.
I think it’s one of the fragments of that “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting to experience but actually end up collecting one tiny realization at a time.
When the light bulb clicks. When it dawns on us that we’re not the only one.
When we see quotes from ancient philosophers like Socrates and realize: Hell. I already figured that out for myself!
“The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing.”
It feels good to admit it.
I know nothing.
It feels good to grow up.
I know nothing.
It feels good to realize all the other kids in church were probably thinking the exact same thing.
Well, maybe I know something.
(This post originally appeared at Must Be This Tall To Ride.)