Growing up without paternal influence, in a time of social upheaval, allowed for an array of misconceptions and unfounded assumptions. My impression of the adult world was a daydream. Contrary to my own familial experience, I thought adults (grown men in particular) were invulnerable and I believed they knew things about life that were hidden from me.
Frequently, the men I admired for their perceived wisdom were every bit as mystified as I was. I had a friend who was a decade or so older than I. In my early 20s he looked at me and said, “What is it that you think I know? I don’t have anything figured out.” I couldn’t believe him. It seemed obvious to me that he must be assured of life’s configuration. I was friends with the aspects of his personality that merged with my imagination, fond of who I thought he was, rather than who he declared himself to be.
I was oblivious to doubt in the broader adult world. There remained a line of demarcation between child and adult when I was growing up. Adult matters were not discussed in front of children. Occasionally, an adult situation would arise in the community that couldn’t be kept from us kids; obvious mental illness or other irregular circumstances, but those occurances were rare and not accorded undue commentary.
Along the way, my mother and my grandparents ingrained precepts in us. Gram was adamant and repetitive, “Always have a job and your own money so you can be independent.” (Her insistence was likely a reaction to the demise of my parents’ marriage.) Gramp demonstrated every day that purpose and decency were gratifying. Mum encouraged me to take a chance and experience something beyond the limits of my immediate realm. All three of them taught me that there is magic in simplicity. They were strong personalities, who kept their doubts to themselves. If they faltered, I was not aware of it.
I am now where they once were. It has taken nearly all of my life to accept that I am not the only adult in the world, who is muddling through trying my best to do no harm. Still, I am not always entirely convinced that I am not alone in uncertainty. I don’t know much, other than what works for me, but I have no idea why it works. It appears the questions are more relevant than the answers.