I was reading a blog today that reminded me of me when I was a teenager. Except that when I was a teenager I would never have written as candidly about my innermost thoughts the way this young person has. I was too afraid someone might judge me. Or stop me. Or not like me.
I grew up in the “children are seen and not heard” era. You had to be perfectly well behaved. (I wasn’t.) You were supposed to look your best at all times. (I didn’t.) And in the presence of grownups, you kept your mouth shut unless you were asked a question directly. (A hard one for me.) My parents always said I always wanted to be the centre of attention. That was true. But as I’ve grown older, I think that many of my attention-getting antics were the result of feeling as though no one actually saw me. Or heard me.
When I think back to my childhood and teen years, I can clearly remember my thoughts and dreams – many, many of which I never breathed to anyone. I also remember telling myself over and over, never forget this, always remember how you felt when this happened. And I haven’t forgotten.
Now, as an adult, I have a multitude of memories that have stayed with me for forty or fifty years. Because I paid attention even when I felt that no one else did. Those memories of my thoughts, the dreams I had, and the things I experienced are as fresh in my mind as if they’d happened last week. I open them sometimes when I need the perspective of a teenage girl in one of my stories. Or when I want to see the situation through the eyes of a frightened seven-year-old.
And I pay attention to my children. I listen to my grandchildren. And I watch the people who walk past my house, or drive in the car beside me, or sit next to me in a waiting room. All of them have thoughts and dreams they share with no one.
But if you pay attention, you can see what they see.