I, like many people, thought I knew everything in my late teens and early twenties. Though there is no legal drinking age in Colombia, and I had been going to bars there since I was 13, I still celebrated what in the U.S. passes for a rite of passage: my 21st birthday.
I went out with friends, had way too many sickeningly sweet drinks, went skinny dipping in the pool at my apartment complex, vomited...
Armed with my new status as an "official" alcohol-guzzling adult, my idealism and all my wisdom, I was ready to face the world---just as soon as the room stopped spinning.
It was a couple of years later that the realization hit me:
I know nothing.
I will spend the rest of my life in a constant quest for knowledge, understanding and wisdom of self and of the world around me.
That first time was a bit traumatic, but it changed the way I approach the world. I now approach every person or experience I encounter as a potential lesson. I try to keep my eyes and ears open (with varying degrees of success) and absorb everything, trying not to repeat my mistakes (again, success varies).
My new approach has served me well, though by no means do I avoid moments where I am utterly humbled.
One such instance happened a few weeks ago. I was talking with my favorite 8 year old and her mom. This kid is bright and sensitive, insightful beyond her years. She and her peers are reaching that age where differences begin to be felt. No longer do they all play as one big group, but rather they have begun to splinter into cliques. The newly formed "popular girls" clique has begun to pick on my sensitive young friend for being different.
Listening to her tales of woe, I was reminded of my own school experiences, of the pennies flicked at me as I walked down the halls, of the racist comments, the mean pranks. It hurt me to think of this beautiful young soul having to experience the degree of cruelty which only one's young peers are capable of inflicting.
"Bitches!" I muttered.
She gave an inscrutable look with those big brown eyes. She turned to her mom and told us how she deals with it.
The three of us--- she, her mom, and I --- often do yoga together to a particular series of DVD's, and at the end of each one, there is a meditation. Part of the meditation includes sending a healing prayer to somebody you know who needs it.
She told us she sends her healing prayer to this girl, the meanest of the mean girls who pick on her.
I am an asshole, I thought, as I looked at my wise little teacher with awe.