Our daughter is 19. She’s interning in LA for the summer. She’s just out of a year long relationship which broke her heart.
Getting her and keeping her in LA was a lot of work, and emptied our bank account. But we justified it all by deciding this was the summer she should ‘grow’ as a person and citizen of the world. To touch, to smell, to hear, and see new things for the first time. For her to stand on her own two feet and get to know herself. To learn that ‘she’ and only ‘she’ can be responsible for true happiness. Not a boyfriend. Not a job. Not how much money she hopes to earn.
“I saw something sad today Mom” she said. “I saw a hooker outside Subway and she looked about 70”. I asked her if she was sure. The plastic thigh boots and matted blonde hair divided by a 6 inch black stripe suggested she was right. She was sad – for a minute. To her it was like watching a scene from a TV show. That scene was quickly replaced with the next scene and life moved on in an instant. Her sandwich was ready and she was eager to get back to work.
Sad to her for a moment? To me, tragic. Heart breaking. Frustrating. Disturbing. The image stays with me…
I see the prostitute. And my mind wonders… Is the 70 year old really a tired, abused 50? Did she feed her children breakfast this morning? Or were her children taken away from her? What and when was her last meal? I try not to imagine the stench when she peels off her plastic boots after a hard days work. Is every dry line on her face a testament to every bruise, every tear, every thrown insult. Does she take drugs? Does she have a mental health issue that was never disagnosed or treated? Does anyone care about her? Does she ever laugh? Does insist her customers wear condoms or is it too late and it doesn’t matter anymore. Does she sleep well. Does she dream? The image of her stays with me for days.
So, where was I at 19? In exactly the same place as my daughter. Living in a world of ‘self’. A world that was safe. A world that revolved around me, and the instant gratification of the here and now.
I realize there is plenty of time for her to see the world for how it really is. Perhaps there is even such a thing as knowing and feeling too much.
Let her be young and innocent for as long as she can. Because once your eyes are opened from your ‘own’ world to the ‘real’ world it changes. You have to live with guilt. Guilt that you were one of the lucky ones. That you were born to good parents that loved you. That your circumstances gave you every chance of ‘making it’. And guilt that says even knowing this – you can’t help every person and you can’t ‘fix’ the sad, and poor and lonely.
Peace comes with living the best life you can and being the best person you can be. A life whereby you look that prostitute in the eye and say ‘good morning’. You don’t look away. You treat every living person with respect and kindness.
They say youth is wasted on the young. Because if we were young again with all our knowledge, what a life we could have. But would our knowledge have changed the life of this prostitute? Probably not.
So my darling daughter enjoy being young and guilt free while you can, and always live your best life.