“A wise man never knows all; Only a fool knows everything” – African Proverb
Some of my favorite conversations involve one or both of my daughters and usually I admit to not having the answer they are seeking. These conversations have grown from the simple days of “mommy, why is the sky blue?” to “Mom, when did you have your life figured out?” Both are in their late 20s and continue to amaze me with their perspectives of life. I’m happy that my daughters and I share a good relationship, unlike mine I had with my own mother.
My own failure of being able to relate and have a healthy relationship with my own mother is the reason I promised myself and my daughters that I would not allow to happen in my relationship with my own children. The fear of failure, loss and embarrassment seemed to be behind that I have more questions than answers. The hardest part for me has not been not knowing the answers, but being OK with not knowing the answers. I used to pride myself so much on a random assortment information of that I did know–the stuff that made me fierce Family Feud teammate or Jeopardy contestant wannabe that it was hard to admit when I didn’t understand something or if I needed help. Today we live in a world in which the answers to so many questions we may have are at our finger tips. A few quick searches on Google can settle the lyric of any annoying song stuck in my head, or how to solve a math problem and where is that movie I want to see is playing at.
Strangely, I approached 40 with a genuine sense of contentment. I am 52 now. Gone are the judgments towards myself about not figuring it all out; gone is the guilt at having “wasted” my 20s (what does that even mean, anyway? I couldn’t possibly have gotten to this point without going through the experiences I have). I’ve made peace with the fact that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to. It must come from growing up, I guess – when you’re young, you see life as black and white, and you think it should be easy enough. But once you get mixed up in the mess of becoming an adult, you start to see it’s not that straightforward. I think the only reason this causes pain is because we all cling to that childish notion of having everything figured out. I share this bit of wisdom with my daughters now. I tell them when I imagined how my adult life would look when I was a teenager, even in my 20s, it’s different than what I had planned but in no way do I feel like I failed. Sure, there were times that I felt I let myself down or someone I loved but overall, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s not a matter of having all the answers, it’s knowing what to do with the ones you do have.
“There is nothing wrong with making mistakes and not having all the answers, so long as we are willing to admit this and strive for personal betterment. Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out that they don't.” - Leo Buscaglia