When God was handing out The Guidebook to Life I reckon I was on the toilet. Or out buying milk for mum.
This was a line I shared at a presentation I gave to 3000 youth leaders at the National Young Leaders Day conference just recently. I was asked, loosely, to share some advice I wish I’d been told when I was these kids age. I decided to share something I used to feel with all my marrow. Something I’ve realized, as I’ve got older, was a complete misunderstanding.
When I was younger I watched the other kids at school “getting it right”. How did they know that elastics was in this week? That you had to roll your socks down past the ankle bone? Where did they learn to pash?
Everyone else clearly got The Guidebook. This was a background feeling that hovered over me, leaving me with a sense that I’d always have to play catch up, I’d always be pretending. Everyone got the missive that said It’s A Good Thing to buy your first investment property in your twenties. And the reassuring chapter that says everything is going to be OK despite having chosen the wrong university degree. These things I only worked out the hard way, a decade or two after everyone else.
I marvel at people who just have this knowing that vanilla suits them better than chocolate and that the partner they chose was The (Right) One. Me, I dither in front of the toothpaste section in the supermarket – gel or original mint? I just don’t know.
One of the dear, dear things about getting older, of course, is that it dawns there is no guidebook. No one bloody got it! We all just put a lot of effort into looking like we did. We put on a smile rather than tell friends we are desperately lonely in our relationship.
We make loud, verbose claims at dinner parties to make everyone certain of our certainty.
Once we get this, it suddenly becomes very much OK to not know. And then, with the freedom this realisation affords, we can see that not knowing has a broader purpose. Because stuff that’s OK must have a reason.
I don’t know how to do life. I’m still trying to work out where to land. But it’s in the writing of my own guidebook that it certainly gets more meaningful.
Do you know what I mean?