You can’t know it all


Kavya Desikan

Student studies in the WA library

Varshini Ramanathan, Editor-in-Chief

“My name is Maitreyi and I know everything.”

“Everything?” I said as I sat down beside my three-year-old third-cousin, who had declared this to me when we first met ten seconds ago. “Everything in the whole wide world?”

“Everything,” she answered solemnly, then told me she was so strong she could lift her mother.

I laughed indulgently at Maitreyi as she taught me all about butterflies and fairies. In her little world, of course she knew everything, and of course that wouldn’t last. She would realize soon enough that she didn’t know much of anything at all.

At school the next day, I was chatting with a friend when she mentioned a singer — “you know her?” — of whom I’d never heard. It was only with the tiniest of winces that I nodded my agreement: I know. Ten minutes later, as my calculus teacher asked if an example made sense, I couldn’t bring myself to raise my hand: I know. I followed whoever was in front of me, too afraid to ask where we were going in fear of seeming out of the loop. I might as well have told them: “My name is Varshini and I know everything.”

My cousin Maitreyi said it out of naivete and a lack of control over the English language. Though I am somewhat better at stringing sentences together than her, we’re the same in our naivete: we’re just babies. So why am I so quick to laugh at her childish words when even I continue to deny that I don’t know much of anything — political, social, academic, anything — at all?

I’m not alone in this, either: I see people nodding and insisting “I got it” every day. The mindset perpetuated by always thinking we have to know everything means that we become stuck in place. We’ll skate through a conversation or a class and resolve that we’ll look it up when we go home or read the textbook, but rather than filling holes, we cover them with plastic wrap.

We’re all trying to grow up. We’re all trying to dress older and act older and speak smarter and go through life flawlessly, effortlessly. I’ve tried all those tricks in my quest to no longer be mistaken for a freshman, and believe me, they don’t work (not just because of my baby face).

But in pretending to be adults, we lock ourselves into being children, speaking the same words as a three-year-old under a veil of bigger vocabulary. Until we embrace the parts of ourselves that are still unknowing children, we’ll never be more than just unknowing children.

Seventeen going on eighteen, high-school senior going on college freshman, I need to have an open mind and humble heart to take in the vast world around me. Moving into adulthood, I want to be a little more stupid, a little more out of the loop, and hopefully to truly grow up in return.

So my advice to you isn’t to stop caring what other people think or treasure every second of your high-school experience. That’s frankly impossible. But I think it’s doable to be a little — just a little — humble. Lose a little respect. Be stupid, learn something, move forward, and begin to grow up for real.