I don’t know what I don’t know. But when I do learn something new, I feel smarter, well-rounded, and… sadder. Because not all the information we learn is good! Yes, some knowledge I gain is wanted. I want to know how to ace a test, or write a good email, or other skills that will help me succeed and reach my own potential. But in that learning process, I also learn about racism and sexism and discrimination. I want to know about these things. It’s important to know about these things. We’ve seen time and time again that ignoring these things cause a heavy oppression, and talking about hard issues seems like the best solution. And talking about hard and sad issues brings them into the light, and therefore makes it easier to fix them. But it’s a double-edge sword.
I took a writing class this year, and we spent a lot of time practicing how to analyze things through different lense: historical, New Criticism, Colonial, Feminist, and many more. It was really fun at first. We sat at a table, with a ad by Coke or Guess projected in the front of the class, and we’d all hurl our criticism to the screen. The girls were so skinny, and pale, and blonde, which means the ad wasn’t selling jeans, it was selling a body type and diet culture. The man drinking Coke is standing on a fancy boat with friends, everyone smiling at him, which means it’s not the Coke we are meant to look at, but the lifestyle. Then we started pulling apart books. Curious George became a story about colonizing a monkey, Grease was full of sexism innuendos, and I started to see problems in everything. The books and movies from my childhood looked different now, and were harder to enjoy. I couldn’t look at an ad without analyzing the position of each person in it, or the color of the product. Nothing looked the same as before, and even though I knew the knowledge I gained was important, I sometimes wished it could all go back to the way it was.
Maybe this is all a smaller instance of what it’s like to grow up. You get older, your perspective changes, and everything, even truths that you thought were set in stone, shift. I guess it can be painful at first, just like any loss. But you get used to it, right? I was sad at first when I realized my beloved dolls were sitting on a shelf more than in my arms, but I eventually accepted that my interests are going to change. I’m not really sad about it anymore… and most adults I know aren’t moping about because they know the hard truth. They must get used to living with it, too.