Dear Fiona: Love the Unlearned

Dear Fiona,

In my last letter I wrote about loving learning. Today I want to share something else that may sound at first as though it contradicts everything in my previous note.

I hope you learn to love that which you do not know.

I realize how weird that sounds. If you love learning, you’ll always hunger to know as much as possible about as many things as possible. And I hope to do everything I can to feed that.

But sometimes, there are things you cannot know. Sometimes you’ll have contradictory information that will lead to two possible – and opposite – conclusions. Sometimes you simply won’t have enough information to reach any conclusion at all. Sometimes your heart will draw you to a conclusion you desperately want to believe despite the fact that it can’t be verified or backed up with any concrete evidence.

And that’s ok.

This is really hard stuff . . . or at least it is for me. If I have a question, I want an answer, and I want it right now!

But some answers don’t exist yet. Others, while they may exist, I’m just not ready to hear.

And that’s ok too.

I hope you learn much earlier than I have, how to hold two competing ideas in tension with one another . . . how to draw what’s true from each idea and leave the pieces that cannot both be true for further examination and thought. I hope that’s easier for you than it is for me.

We’ll explore a few of these competing ideas in the course of these letters, but for now I just want you to think about the fact that there are things you just can’t know. And yet . . . and yet . . . sometimes you have to choose anyway.

Sometimes a decision will be required of you without access to complete or perfect information. In those times, go with what you know to be true, take as much of an educated guess as you can with regard to the rest, and then take what’s left on faith.

Sometimes a decision will be required of you when two equally attractive options exist – or when no attractive options exist at all. In those times, trust yourself enough to be content with whatever you decide, and don’t regret the loss of the alternative choice.

Sometimes a decision will be asked of you when there’s no real need for you to make it yet. In those times, the wisest course of action may be to hold off on any judgment at all until more information is available, holding onto what you know – but loosely enough that you can let it go if new information becomes available.

I sincerely hope that in the course of our life together we’ll have lots of conversations about many such issues, but at the root of those conversations I hope you learn to love the things you haven’t yet learned, every bit as much as you love the things you have.

And as you figure out how to do this, I hope I can too! I have to be honest with you here and tell you this is not something I’ve figured out yet. When a decision confronts me, my tendency is to get anxious about choosing the wrong option, nervous about making a decision without knowing all the variables that go into it, worried about losing out on the options I’ve decided against, and regretful of the outcomes from my decisions.

Some of that, you and your brother are helping me with just by being around. There are times when I know I’ve made something other than the best possible decision as your parent, and there are times when I just have to figure out how to be ok with that, and how to do better next time . . . simply because “next time” is already here as the dust is still settling from “last time.”

So thank you for that . . . among other things. Thank you for everything you’ve already taught me, and the ways that you’ve already helped me to grow as a father, and as a person. I’m sorry for the times I’ve screwed up, but I’m hopeful that we can learn from those times and can both become better people because of them.

I hope we never stop growing together, learning how to love all the many wonderful things we haven’t yet figured out.


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