“The young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled in them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded….They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.”
Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
The secret is that there is no secret. That is what we really wish to keep from our kids, and its suppression is the true collusion of adulthood, the pact we make, the Talmud we protect.
Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin
In adolescence or young adulthood, our children confront the big questions of meaning. As the quotes above illustrate, youth must come to terms with the disappearance of mystery that accompanies coming of age. I remember a phone conversation with a friend who had been a passionate student of French language and culture in college. A year or two after graduation, she found herself ordering office supplies and scheduling meetings at a small firm that imported French goods. I still recall the deep sense of betrayal she expressed. “In college, we explored these incredibly fascinating ideas, and now there’s no place for that.” And it wasn’t just that her entry level job was unsatisfying. It was that she perceived that adulthood was an “arid and precipitous country” that must be crossed. We had been fooled. The adults had made false promises that life might be full of adventure and meaning, when really it was about trying to pay the bills.