The realization came while measuring the weight of other peoples’ opinions in a conversation on Friday when I noted with a soaring sense of satisfaction that I didn’t feel the need to take a single one of them on board. This wasn’t news of course; I’ve been doing it for years. But what I didn’t fully appreciate was how guilt-free I was about it.
When I was younger I was like that too. I didn’t need anyone’s opinion about a single damn thing because I literally knew everything. Everything. But like all young people, even my IQ, my bookishness and my relentless quest for context and perspective in everything from the rise of Duran Duran to the Cuban Missile Crisis couldn’t do anything to offset the fact that I was functionally a total moron.
When I was around 14, I began to type out, on a typewriter, essays in response to newspaper articles on topics ranging from economic sanctions against South Africa to the rise of commercialism in sports. I remember sitting at my desk in those days as a budding Carl Bernstein, and I remember actively thinking that I understood the issues facing South Africa better than Edward Kennedy and Coretta Scott-King ever could as if my daily existence within South Africa’s borders trumped their thousand pages of research.
What I knew of the world then was naïve and probably irritating to the sane heads that surrounded me. I’m sure I got laughed at a lot.
I don’t think (I don’t think) I get laughed at as much these days. I’ve had the stuffing knocked out of me enough times to know that there are as many limits to my idealism as there are people who hold a different vision for the way things ought to be.
But it’s interesting how some circles close.
I’m not that 14-year old kid anymore, but I have almost as little need for outside opinions as he did. The difference now, is that the voice and the vision inside me for the way I want to live is substantially more connected with my post-idealistic view of the world than anyone else’s. Arrogance aside, I just know what I want now and have a pretty well-formed view of what is possible, for me, with my skills, my appetites, my fears, abilities and limitations.
I had to plant a stake in the ground sooner or later I guess and accept that if I know myself at all, even well-intended opinions fall short of the thousand page report I’ve been subconsciously writing on my own life.