My house is lived in, a mess, full of clutter and precariously placed objects with potential energies that make me nervous. It feels like home. Everything is familiar. I can find my way around the house in the dark—or I could, before I came to college. That muscle memory isn’t as automatic now.
Everything that happens in my house is as predicted, is as it’s always been for years. On weekend mornings, I can find my father reading the paper in the kitchen. My mother might still be asleep, or reading, or out. My grandfather is probably doing yard work. My grandmother is reciting lines from a Buddhist prayer book, eyes closed and fingers moving methodically over a string of beads. My brother is taking up the entire couch, reading some science fiction novel.
It feels like home, but it doesn’t.
There’s a disconnect. Everything is so familiar—but there must be some sort of figurative distance between me and the rest of this world. I cannot fathom what thoughts go through the minds of my family members. I don’t know their hopes and aspirations. I don’t know their secret ambitions. I don’t know what my parents wanted when they were my age. I don’t know how much pain my grandparents have been through.
I guess that’s the inevitable generation gap. It’s hard, you know, to see your family as real people, as flawed and as vulnerable as you are. That’s why it’s so easy to hurt them sometimes.
And sometimes, the people you’ve known your whole life are the people you know the least.
After all, there are certain things I can’t talk to my parents about. A lot of the time, those are the things that affect me the most. I wish I could tell them what goes on in my life. I wish I could tell them what I can tell my friends. Maybe I could, but there will always be some imaginary barrier telling me that I can’t—always the memory of my parents telling me you can’t you can’t you can’t and me hearing that as I can’t say that I have I can’t tell them I can’t.
I know they’ll never know me like I’ll never know them, not at the level I wish I could. They’ll never know what I think about before I sleep and what keeps me up. They’ll never know I can write like this. I’ve never shown them, so I guess that’s my fault. But in a way, I don’t know if they’ll understand.
It was hard enough to realize that they were only human, with the same complexities as me. It’s difficult to relate to the people that have exerted absolute control over my life since my birth. How can we be the same species of people?
This is the ‘problem of other people’: the simple limitation of human minds and its inability to fully understand others. You can’t ever know what it’s like to be another person. You only have your experiences to draw from. And that’s not nearly enough.
You can’t know what makes someone how they are; they can tell you stories, but you can’t ever live them. I can ask my parents about how they were, when they were my age, but I will never know. And they will never know what I am living right now, either.
I have concluded that it is possible, and likely, and normal and fine, to love people you can’t ever know.