Kiki recalled being invincible and truth-loving and twenty years old; remembered feeling exactly this: that if her family could only speak the truth, together they would emerge, weeping but clear-eyed into the light.
-Zadie Smith, On Beauty, p.60
In this sentence from Zadie Smith’s 2005 novel, Kiki, the mother of the family, is responding to the latest truth-telling assualt of her son, Jerome. I think it is a brilliant and wise insight into families and generations.
Does it ring true for you? At twenty, did you have the answers to your family’s problems? Did it all seem so clear? If only they could be more honest, fearless, authentic like you, then all their problems would disappear?
I think it was true of me. I think when I was twenty I believed more strongly in people’s ability to change and the absolute value of unflinching honesty. If only we could all tell exactly how we feel, instead of holding back.
Nine years later, I recognise the value of social niceties, of politeness, of treading carefully. My twenty-year old self looks through the decade in disgust. I don’t really care. He wasn’t all wrong, just too absolute.