I wouldn’t use the phrase “know-it-all,” but as a child I had an answer for everything. Why are there white cows and brown cows? Easy, one makes milk and the other makes chocolate milk. Why does thunder make that sound? The angels are bowling again. They sure do that a lot over Kentucky in the spring.
That want to know everything there was to know didn’t go away as I grew. I only got more curious. I realized that some of my instinctive answers were wrong, so I’d go find the right ones. Some subjects, like math, I got bored of. Sorry, high school teachers, I don’t need to know calculus.
Here’s the thing, though: It took me becoming an adult to realize that I’m often wrong. Like a lot.
While I’m still definitely right about the cow thing, I’ve been wrong about so much. I was wrong about what constitutes happiness, love, relationships. I’ve thought people hated me who didn’t really think about me at all. I’ve been a jerk without so much as realizing it and it turns out I’m kind of an ass sometimes. Who knew?
Some of my mistakes have had temporary consequences. Others have been more permanent. There are some things that, due to me just being wrong, I’ll never get back, not really.
I want to know everything because I’m determined not to be caught unaware. It’s an insecurity I bring to every facet of my life. This makes me more suspicious than I probably should be. That car repair cost more than I expected, is my mechanic cheating me? My significant other has been distant recently, I should make sure I bother the crap out of her until I figure out why and see how I can fix it.
It grates on people, as you might imagine. Through life I’ve tried to get better about it. I still think something is wrong, but I try not to say anything, or I hold it in.
But I was wrong on multiple levels. I was treating the symptoms, and not investing the time and effort to fix the problem within myself.
Yes, trust is something that will burn you. Maybe often. What I’ve learned, though, is that the alternative is to be suspicious of everyone and everything. To use my inquisitive nature to harass people who are only trying to screw me over in my head. To worry about how exactly each person you know could get over on you by allowing your mind to construct every worst-case scenario.
Believe me, it’s no way to go through life.
When you’ve been making that same mistake, over and over, what can you do?
For me, it’s been like any other error. You try and take something from it. It helps a little that I realized it at all, even if it took this long.
It’s a small comfort. How much different would life be if I hadn’t done this, said this, thought this? If I’m going to be judged for these actions, does it help that I’ve realized the error now?
I guess people age in different ways. We all grow, but not equally. It took me longer than it should have to realize one of my greatest character flaws. I guess I was shocked, I always thought I was better than that.
When we look, and I mean really look inside ourselves, we might be surprised by the person staring back at us in the mirror.
The important thing, though, is to never stop searching. To never stop trying to improve. It’s never too late to be a better person, and that’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you know a great ramen noodle recipe.)