Note: The following piece was written by 16 year old Rosalie Guhlin. Please share your reaction online in the comments.
Copyright 2010 A. Rosalie Guhlin
It was deafening when I realized.
When I realized the adults didn’t know as much as I thought they did.
Seeing as, when I was small, they shadowed my thoughts with what I couldn’t do, always having
an answer to my why’s. I questioned them, in a high, piping four-year old voice, why and my mother,
father, uncle, aunt, teacher- always had a response, in a tone that dictated my beliefs. I did not ask the
hard questions, and they gave me the easy answers.
Now, I know they have startling years of experience, that my teacher has seen so much more
than me, has gained more knowledge than my sixteen year old eyes have seen. My parents attended
college; surely, in matters such as that, where they have lived through it and I have not, they know more.
But it was startling to understand one day that my mother and father, they were not done, living life, and
that their opinions weren’t the resounding end to an issue. To see my teachers come and go, leaving my
life on what appeared to be almost whims, because their lives were and are not done- perhaps it is naïve
to think that they were the rule, especially knowing my mother as more than a teacher. But I never
applied this concept to the rest of the world. Teachers can leave, just as they can come. Teachers, not
only the employed ones, have lives that are ongoing and continuous. They live, as people, with
It is not that my elders are dumb, or do not actually hold the many answers I thought they did. It
is simply that they themselves are not done living, yet are expected to run the world I and the rest of my
younger generation, live in. And I suppose, at some point, they lie to keep up the pretense as long as
possible that the younger ones they care for still look at them with reverence and the belief that they are
safe. Because the adults know what to do and will of course keep them cocooned from the badness.
What frightens me is that I am beginning to fall into this role. I understand the politics that swirl
around me, world issues and home issues and financial exigency and terrorism. I am no longer the wide-
eyed eight-year old who didn’t understand why her mother was gripped with fear that day in 2001. Nor
am I the twelve-year old who didn’t understand why every penny should be scrimped and saved, even
though we lived in a nice house. Now, the problems that I simply knew as “bad” or “scary” no longer
hide in shadows. The perfect system of my country is no longer free of conflict, battle scars or corruption
as it once was. Some time ago, policemen were perfect, more than just hard-working men risking their
lives, the President had the best job in the world, as a kind of god, and I always was safe.
The worst part is the flickering between child freedom and adult responsibility, which I have
been avoiding. But now, I see that it is time to grow up, to rise with my fellow peers to the challenge
that we are inheriting. It’ll get better I’m sure, with hard work. I just didn’t know how soon the duty
would come. I suppose it’s time to grow up and start paying attention.
As my little brother and younger cousin start asking me questions that I don’t always know the
answer to, I find myself doing what so many others have done for me. I respond in a tone of voice that
reassures through its confidence and back up all answers with references. They smile, nod and continue
with little interruption to their day. I try to join them so I may ignore the realization that I constantly hear
in my mind. But I can’t.
I feel realization shouting the truth in my new new ears and I feel the burden of growing up on
Author: A. Rosalie Guhlin
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