Every time I see kids crying or whining or doing any sort of kid-thing, I fail to demonstrate any sort of human sympathy, mostly due to my general lack of empathy and the fact that I am not a kid-person. But I guess there is also some sort of envy there, because they don’t have to worry about paying the bills, about whether or not they should spend $80 on the Victoria Secret semi-annual sale they probably shouldn’t, or about their PhD prospectus – life, in general. They, in a word, have nothing to worry about.
But as I was listening to this episode on This American Life about how children have their own way of dealing with logic and the world around them, I could not help but remember how I too was, once, a child, with “no worries”. And I remember that being a child doesn’t necessarily mean your world is actually void of worries. Quite the opposite. Maybe I was an especially anxious child, who knows, even though I don’t remember being one; it would explain many things I am going through as an ‘adult’.
I remember being worried that humanity was destined to live ‘forever’ (although that may not be now, thank you Climate Change). I could simply not understand the idea that although my mommy and daddy will die, and I will die one day, life was to go on on this planet earth, until the year 3,000 and more and more. It scared me that life was endless. Life was not a happy story that could end with a firm ‘The End’ that I was so accustomed to.The book of Life did not have a last page. Life was going to persist, and although individuals would eventually die, humanity, as a race, would just go on forever. I remember my mom laughing, telling me I wouldn’t be alive to witness it anyways, so why the concern? But what was I to do with this baffling and disturbing knowledge? Just go on, like a naive creature without reason? I just couldn’t.
Maybe I indeed was on the higher end of the anxiety spectrum, when I think about all the diseases I was afraid I might catch. One of the many ‘dangers’ you become aware of when growing up Catholic and with the Bible around you is leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. The bible is filled with stories of Jesus healing the lepers, and that is all good and beautiful, but I was mostly concerned with the fact that there were lepers in the first place, and that they were inevitably shunned by all (except by Jesus of course). I was terrified at the idea that I too, might catch this disease, and I could see my finger-less and toe-less future, for sure. Jesus had been here once already, and he couldn’t possibly come back and heal me, so what was I to do? Then, with the whole AIDS phase in the 90s, I was afraid I might catch that too. I knew it was a sexually transmitted disease, but there had been cases, after all, of transmission through blood transfusions, and so on. What if I needed blood transfusion and was pricked by a contaminated needle? The horror!
I had this blue booklet when I was in my early teens, given by an acquaintance of my mom. This person was a fervent Jehovah’s Witness and apparently her goal in life was to convert us – which she still pursues today. I don’t remember the title of the booklet, but it basically masqueraded itself into providing all the possible answers teenagers could have and ‘guide them through the right path’. I guess my mom thought if it meant it could keep us away from trouble, a Jehovah’s Witness book was as good as any, and had no qualm giving it to my sister and I. There was the usual ‘obey to your parents’ and ‘no promiscuity’ (why are religions so obsessed with sex, I don’t know) chapters, but I especially remember the one on how masturbation was an absolute sin. As a prude teenager, I had no idea what masturbation meant. My mother, as a good Asian mother, wouldn’t give me a satisfactory answer, so as the diligent student that I was, I turned to the huge dictionary we had at home (this was pre-Internet, also known as the Dark Ages). I don’t know what definition it had, but either because the definition itself was unclear or because the idea of sexually pleasing oneself couldn’t have possibly crossed my mind back then (I know, let’s laugh together at this idea), I remained in ignorance. And that, of course, was another major point of concern. I mean, if I didn’t even know what masturbation meant, how could I possibly avoid it? What if I were to fall into the depths of sin and hell without even realizing?
Let’s not forget the time I watched a movie where one of the characters died after stepping into quicksand (I don’t even remember the plot, I just remember that scene). This did not bode well for a kid living in a country that is literally in the middle of the Saharan desert. I was terrified I would one day step into an innocent-looking dune only to realize, too late, that it was quicksand and not even my parents would be able to save my body engulfed by sand.
At least, problems that we face as adults often do have solutions – we will pay our bills if we wisely choose not to spend $80 on the unnecessary (albeit so beautiful) Victoria Secret sale, and well, we just have to make that goddamn prospectus happen, once and for all. So let’s give some credit to all the kids out there with unspeakable concerns weighing down on their shoulders, disheartened, without a single viable solution on the horizon. Let’s hug them (and by ‘let’s’, I mean the rest of you, because, let’s not kid ourselves (pun intended), I remain a no-kid-person) and reassure them that they will grow up to face very mundane problems and that everything will be all right in the end.