February 3, 2023 | FEATURES | By Ceyna Dawson

When I was little, I really didn’t know. 

Shel Silverstein’s poem “I DON’T KNOW” in “Every Thing On It”says:

“I don’t know where anyplace is. Is Baltimore next to Cadiz? Is Maui in North or South Carolina? Do you pass Duluth on the highway to China? I sure hope there isn’t a test or a quiz ‘Cause I don’t know where anyplace is.” 

As a child, nothing ever seemed to have real consequences, and being unaware was perfectly fine. I had nothing in my backpack except a pencil, a practically empty folder, and some Scooby Snacks. The single worry on those gargantuan yellow buses was if you could sit with your friends. 

My brain would be swarming on how to get money to buy some trinket from the Scholastic Book Fair. I held a will of steel to trade for the coveted, rare, and glorious Silly Bandz that would fill the entire length of my arms.

After lunchtime, a pile of kids would push and shove to reach the swing sets first. And upon arrival back to the classroom, we would give our teachers high fives with sweaty faces and sticky, blistered, metal-smelling hands that we all can remember so well. School was just a checklist item: no pressure and minimal worries.

I had that  “As Seen On TV”  voice-operated diary and had forgotten my absurd password by the next day. But it didn’t matter because there were no consequences. Especially because the most I ever wrote was “D e E r D i R a R y”. 

I was oblivious in the best and most pure way possible. I sincerely didn’t know anything, and maybe the key to the contentment of my childhood was that I wasn’t expected to.  

With no warning that the innocence and ignorance of childhood would ever dissipate, suddenly it disappeared.

What year did I stop dressing up for Halloween?

When did they stop drawing smiley faces on my hand when leaving Costco?

Let’s be clear: I do not expect to be treated like a child because, well, I am 18. However, I realize that the slow distancing from childhood is a shift to the mindset that not knowing is no longer acceptable. 

The deadlines encroach and I feel that there are things I should be doing. I should be joining clubs. I should be working. I should be balancing everything. I should be building an appealing resume. I should be productive all the time.

Truthfully, the “should” cycle becomes exhausting quickly. When I was little, I didn’t associate school with success. When I was little, my favorite subject was English because I could read books in the corner, but now I am tasked with picking a major that will mold my future. 

“I DON’T KNOW” puts a child’s spin on such an existential thought: 

“I don’t know how anything’s done. Does the earth turn or is it the sun? Is electricity made by a kite? Are star twinkles just the reflection of light? How thunder is made and how engines run – ‘Cause I don’t know how anything’s done.” 

None of us can predict the future with full certainty. Oftentimes, our own plans will go awry by the next day. So, in taking a more childlikeapproach, not knowing ends up being more truthful than pretending to know. 

And maybe just giggling at the fact that we don’t know is enough.

Leave a Reply