Happy 23rd birthday South Africa. It can be tough to take a pause from the traumas we are wrestling with, to celebrate. We are too busy trying to fix things.
Many enter the workplace, and adult world thinking they have the solution. They have read a book. They have heard a profound talk. Now they just need to make it happen. By 23 they may be realising they have more questions than answers.
They have learnt lessons from their teachers, only to find that the work place is often more raw than that. The first 100 days at a job is an interesting time to listen to new employees. They come up with lots of ideas, and are full of energy. Sometimes they come up with a gem. The sad truth is normally, the ideas and energy meet the real world. The ideological zeal gets an understanding of the challenges. We can still do stuff, but we need to chip away. We need to build. We need to tidy. We need to listen. It isn't about having the answers, it is about improving the questions.
They have learnt lessons from their parents, and want to unlearn many of those lessons. It is amazing how many people's greatest mistakes are the ones they make trying to unmake the mistakes of their parents... only to do the same. It is often worthwhile listening to the stories of parents, and grandparents, again and again as we age. It is easy to criticise, but we can hear differently as we gain the adult view of having tried (and sometimes failed at) the very thing we got cross about. Life is hard. People do their best.
They have learnt lessons from their friends, but gradually their paths diverge. We know our friends from particular times in our lives. Increasingly we then scatter. The common flavour will let us recognise their path as a 'If I had gone that way'. That can be dangerous as we tend to compare in small snippets. Just the job. Just the house. Just the relationship. Old friends do help anchor us with beautiful questions that give perspective. Too much perspective and we are just a pale blue dot - nothing we do matters. Too little, and we focus excessively on the fires we are fighting while missing the things that do matter. Make time to think about the whole picture.
Learning doesn't end at 23. Our teachers, parents, and friends give us a start. Birthdays are a time to celebrate. A reminder to make time for those teachers, parents and friends. Reflect on battles won and scars earned. Blow out the candles, and make a wish. Then get on with it.