Friday, June 7, 2013

Ancora Imparo ("I Am Still Learning")

I've been reading through an old journal recently. In an entry from September of 1986, I wrote, "It's so hard being grown-up sometimes." I was twenty-five, and Steve was twenty-six. If I had looked back on those early days of adulthood without reading through the journal, I probably would have said those were simpler, easier times. We were young and healthy.  We were back in school, we had relatively few possessions, we didn't own a house yet. In fact, I would have said we were relatively carefree.  But my journal entries tell a different story, a story I'd almost forgotten.  We were a couple of months away from the birth of our first child, and we were wrestling with decisions about the future, having second thoughts about careers, worrying about how we were going to support ourselves and our child. When I was a kid, I remember marveling at everything my parents knew and could do. I wondered how I would ever learn it all. There's a scene in the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis where the narrator, ten-year-old Kenny, says, "Dad, I don't think I'll ever know what to do when I'm grown-up.  It seems like you and Momma know a lot of things that I can never learn. It seems real scary." In the fall of 1986, I was feeling much the same way. How did people learn to be grown-ups? There were so many things about life we didn't know.  What should we do or who should we call when the baby wouldn't stop crying, when we couldn't use the easiest tax form anymore, when the engine light came on, when the plaster crumbled, when the pipes were leaking or clogged or frozen, when something on my skin looked funny, when Steve noticed a strange lump on the back of his leg, when one of our kids was sick or hurt or heartbroken? But as time passed, we learned how to soothe a baby, how to do our taxes, how to use a pipe wrench; we found doctors, plumbers, and mechanics we trusted; we figured out how to tend to broken bones and broken hearts. Yet even now, twenty-seven years later, I have to admit, there are still a great many things that I don't know, and I suspect if I asked my mom, she'd say the same thing. So I guess what I've learned more than anything else is that you're never done learning. Plus, I was right all along--it is hard being grown up sometimes.

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