I’ve been back from the 100 Year Starship Symposium for almost a week now, but I’m still processing everything. Part of that is because, for the first time in two weeks, my hometown is able to take a deep breath and start cleaning up from the hellish King Fire (how aptly named it was!), and part of it is simply the amount of new ideas, information, and possibilities.
But I will write about all of that once I get my Interstellar Crisis Communications paper written and off to the editor!
I’m processing through something much less grand at the moment, partly brought on by the news of a dear and amazing person’s death. I spent last weekend surrounded by some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, people with advanced degrees and extensive experience in their chosen fields.
I was absolutely terrified that I was so far out of my league that I’d get laughed out of the room if I opened my mouth. And they had me presenting! Every shred of imposter’s complex I’ve EVER had came zooming out of the basement.
I couldn’t have been more off-base. The conversations were amazing, the ideas were stimulating, and I learned so much! And I still can’t figure out why anyone listened to me for two seconds.
Except that, intellectually, I know that it’s not just something I deal with. Successful, influential people struggle with it, too. As, er, I would know, given that I, at some point, because a successful, influential person (trust me, no one is more surprised than I am!). Sure, my pond is small, for now, but I have to consider my words now, weigh them against the listeners to make sure that I am building up, not tearing down. And saying that is hard, because I’m sure that someone will immediately point and laugh, or call me on my arrogance.
But I do wish someone had told me a few things…
I wish someone had told me that there’s no magic toggle that flips from ‘child’ to ‘adult’, no potion I could drink that would burn away my fear and uncertainty, leaving me sure and infallible.
I wish someone had told me that everyone is making it up as they go, yes, even that amazingly competent, intelligent, awesome person I worship from afar.
I wish someone had told me that the switch doesn’t matter, because nobody gets it, that my heroes and idols are every bit as alone and afraid and unsure as I am, that strength comes from admitting fear and joining with others to provide refuge, strength, and affirmation; or from steeling my spine and staring into the oncoming storm, and bellowing my solitary resolve.
I wish someone had told me that it doesn’t get better. Fear and pain don’t just vanish. People don’t magically become saints. The danger from my fellow humans is still every bit as great, and with age comes an uncomfortable understanding of evil.
I wish someone had told me that I would make it better, that the secret power of growing up is the ability to take my strength in my own hands and shape it into the weapon I need. No one will make anything better, but I can create the tools I need to survive.
I wish someone had told me that fear can be turned against itself, that it could be my greatest weapon, the thing that drives me when I don’t have anything else left.
I wish someone had told me that the secret joy of being an adult is the endless opportunity for discovery. The only reason for my life to become a grey monotony is if I forget to discover. And, as an adult, I get to choose what I learn, where I explore, and who I learn from. All the joy of childhood, and the wisdom to choose and appreciate.
I wish someone had told me that the dragon and knight and princess are all the same creature, and that I would be each of those things to someone, someday, and that it is okay to be the dragon, even if very few other people understand its real role.
I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to be selfish, to think about myself, what will make me happy or sad, what will be good for me. It’s okay to make choices that hurt others, as long as there is reason and care. It’s okay to do silly little things for myself–get fast food for dinner, burn candles at my desk during the day, watch stupid movies just because I want to, turn down social activities or party the night away.
I wish someone had told me…and I’m glad that they didn’t. No one could have told me what opportunities I’d have, or the choices I’d make for those opportunities to even come into view. No one could have told me how terrible and wonderful my life would be, how often I would sit back and just laugh and laugh at the things life brings.
I wish someone had told me, but I’m glad that they didn’t. It would have spoilt all the joy of discovery.
What do you wish someone had told you?