I was just a young hormonal Catholic school boy sitting in church on Sundays begging God to forgive me every time I thought about having sex with one of the girls I saw.
Why am I thinking about sex in church!?!?
I used to think I was so bad.
I used to feel so guilty.
I used to look around at the backs of all the grownups and think to myself: It must be great being an adult! You can control all these thoughts and FINALLY be a good, disciplined person!
I was just a young, helpless virgin with no one to talk to about it. I wonder what THAT feels like!
I’d watch my mom and stepdad living their lives. They NEVER sinned!
I’d sit at the dinner table at my friends’ houses, quietly studying other families. They’ve got it all figured out!
When I was a kid, I didn’t know the secret.
I didn’t know everyone else was wearing a mask, too.
When I was a kid, I thought everyone’s lives were amazing and had every reason to look forward to adulthood when I wouldn’t make mistakes and feel guilt anymore.
I didn’t know everyone was having marital problems, having sex with other people or wishing they were.
I didn’t know the secret until I was well into my thirties: We’re all just making this up as we go.
You Are Not Alone
At least one of you (and probably many more) can relate in some way to all that young, hormonal, confused kid stuff. At least one of you thought you were going to reach adulthood and have the great “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting for, and at some point it finally dawned on you that it never actually comes.
You don’t just wake up feeling like an adult one day.
You always just feel like a scared, confused kid, and realize with horror—maybe after having children of your own—that you ARE an adult, even though you don’t always feel or act like one.
And I just want you to know that you’re not weird.
I just want you to know that you’re not the only person who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.
I want you to know that it’s okay to be scared. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
That it’s okay to be confused. Because things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would. Because not even you are who you thought you would be.
And that it’s okay to be sad. Because you wasted all those childhood years looking forward to these shittier, adult years, never once stopping to think: “Holy shit! I’m a kid! No one needs me for anything! All I have to do in the entire world is hang out with friends all the time and learn stuff! I better enjoy this while it lasts!”
We were all in such a hurry to grow up.
So we could have FUN!
Because we thought drinking beer and having sex and getting into bars and trips to Vegas and having a job with a paycheck would be better than playing playground kickball and freeze tag and passing notes in class and sneaking kisses behind the school.
Because we thought having our own money would be better than our parents just giving us some.
God, we were stupid. And by stupid, I really just mean ignorant. It wasn’t our fault.
It’s natural to want to drive a car. And stay up as late as we want. And go to whatever party we want. And wear whatever clothes we want. To be cool.
It’s natural to be curious. To want to try new things. And to do things we’re not supposed to.
The forbidden fruit, and all that.
It’s natural to want what we can’t have.
I’m not into Buddhism. But Buddhists wisely recognize that we DO gain value in our lives from our pursuit of things we want, even though acquiring or achieving those things didn’t bring us any palpable happiness or perceived value.
That experience brings us value. The garnering of wisdom from chasing and getting, followed by the lack of long-term fulfillment afterward.
That knowledge is valuable. Because it gives us wisdom.
We didn’t fail because our lives aren’t like we thought they would be.
This, in a lot of ways, was inevitable.
Behaving like human beings and suffering the consequences was inevitable.
That’s what’s real.
I think that’s part of really being an adult. Really being human.
I think it’s one of the many fragments of that “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting to experience, but end up collecting one little realization at a time.
When the light bulb clicks.
When it dawns on us that we’re not the only one.
When we see a quote from Socrates and realize: Hell. I already figured that one out for myself.
“The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing.”
It feels good to admit it.
It feels good to grow up.
It feels good to realize all those other boys in church were thinking the same things.