One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “Hire a teenager while they still know everything.” Because at 18, you do think you know everything, and you think you can do anything, too. There is a sense of promise. Promise of high-powered careers and budding romances, white-picket fences and a full and happy heart. Promise that you – yes, YOU – have what it takes to make it big out in the world.
It’s interesting how quickly we go from a know-it-all teen to a wide-eyed 20-something. Suddenly, we’ve gone from seeing the world as our oyster to feeling like a little fish in a big pond.
Most of us have experienced those moments. The ones where we stop and ponder just exactly how little we know and how much we used to think we did. Those who were the smart kids in high school begin to realize there’s always someone smarter. The popular kids figure out there’s always someone cooler. And hopefully, they also realize that instead of comparing themselves, they should learn from one another. And figure out where they fit best among themselves.
Because surrounding oneself with friends who spur one another on really is the best way to learn as much as you can. Having friends who are smarter than you or funnier than you, but who also give off a sense of inclusivity can bridge the gap between naive teenager and functioning adult. And to eventually help you find that balance between clueless ignorance and mindful curiosity.
It's these voices that follow us as we make life decisions. We consult our trusted loved ones. We trust that, collectively, their knowledge and insight is often more than our own. We build ourselves pillars in the form of the funny strong, smart, funny, cool, athletic or big-dreaming humans we choose as friends.
The catch is they're humans.
It’s because I don’t know everything that I look to my friends around me. Friends who bring something to the table I do not. We look to each other for knowledge, advice, perspective. Yet, as I learn and explore and try new things in an effort to broaden my horizons, face my fears and live a full life, I’ve found that most people respond with either encouragement or warnings. Where is the line between unwavering support and cautionary concern?
For example, when I told one friend I was getting a bike, he responded with concern. “Whoa, you sure that’s a good idea? You’re not exactly the most coordinated human being.” He had basically given a voice to the concerns in my head (and in my blog post). It wasn’t discouraging, but it might have been had he not been the friend who had rescued me after I’d hit another car on a one-way street only to have my battery die after we’d filed the police report. His concerns were fair.
And then I told another friend about the bike, and the response was, “Awesome! Let’s go on a ride together!”
I’m not sure which was the best response, but I’m pretty sure I needed both, the balance of it all. I needed someone to express concern, and I needed someone else to tell me I should go for it, to tell me to put my pedal to the metal, if you will.
So as I climbed atop my new bike for the first time, I carried both attitudes with me. I had one friend’s voice in my head saying “Be very, very careful.” And I had the other friend’s voice saying “Go for it! Fly like the wind!”
I did both. I was careful. I flew like the wind, and I made it back to my apartment sans injury. My hope is when I tell them I want to do something a little more bold than riding a bike, I'll get the same balance of support.
Because I don’t know everything, which is why I have friends. Because they know me. And collectively, we all know a lot more. And though we’re not teens any longer, perhaps with all our collective knowledge, we can successfully reach for the stars.