I was in a situation recently and my family was all together respectively discussing some controversial issues about the state of the world. My niece, who is 16 and incredibly driven, extremely smart, and outwardly confident, offered some opinions. At one point I looked at her and said, ‘You’re 16. You don’t know anything yet.’
I didn’t say this to insult her and I certainly valued her perspective as a youth in a troubling word. While I probably could have approached my response differently, I meant what I said.
Even at 40, I don’t know everything. I’ve been through hell and back. I’ve nearly lost my life and I’ve lost my only born child. I have gained strength and knowledge from my life experience. But I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority in a racist world. I don’t know what it’s like to feel hunger I cannot satisfy. I don’t know what it’s like to be alone without the love and support of countless individuals. I am very, very lucky.
But I absolutely have a lot to learn. I may be a good resource for advice on handling grief. I may be helpful to someone looking to improve their communication skills. I may bring a little optimism to those who are suffering.
But I also know I have a lot to learn, and I want to gain knowledge from others. I want to know what they know. I want to base opinions on information and facts. I want to better myself in every way. I want to listen. I want to be silent, and listen, as much as possible.
While my 16-year-old niece has not had the life experience I’ve had, she has a unique experience that is different from my own. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a world where everything you do is recorded, posted, and judged by thousands of people who’ve never met you. And I don’t know what it’s like to feel pressure to look camera-ready at all times and portray a brand that earns you follows. Those are pressures I never had.
I want to listen. I want to learn. But I also want those who can learn from me to get knowledge and experience they wouldn’t have, had they not been in my life. I want to diversify the people that surround me—so I can learn. And I want to pass my knowledge and experience on to others.
Because what is the point in suffering and surviving if we don’t have the drive and yearning to be better? If everyone were to want to just get better, wouldn’t we be so much more emotionally and socially evolved?
It’s better to be open than to be right. I’m wrong a lot. And that’s ok. I don’t want to be perfect. But I do want to grow. And I do want to listen.
I have a lot to learn. I think we all do.