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Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Losing Trust In Adults

Auntie SparkNotes: I'm Losing Trust In Adults

By kat_rosenfield

Dear Auntie,

Let me just put it out there right off the bat - I'm losing trust in adults; especially those closest to me.

A few months ago, I was riding in the car with my best friend's mom when we were pulled over. After she couldn't complete the tests administered, my friend's mom was arrested for drunk driving. I consider this woman a second mother and was devastated as the police officer came to my window and preached to me how I shouldn't get in the car with people I suspect are drunk, and about how it's my life, and I shouldn't risk it in situations like this - blah blah blah. I'd gotten that talk since I was little and have always paid attention to potentially dangerous situations. But here's the thing: I didn't think she was drunk! Nor did it even once cross my mind that this woman would ever put me in harm's way! I have since become super sensitive and cautious about people who are driving me, and any substances that could impair their decision making abilities. In a way, this could be a good thing: I got a new pair of confidence pants that gave me the voice to tell people (even some of my best friends!) that if they are driving me, I would rather they not drink, otherwise I can find another ride home. I'm very matter of fact with it, no judgment. But then my trust in grown-ups shattered the rest of the way: my uncle beat my aunt.

He was my favorite uncle - the perfect, most fun and cool uncle ever in my eyes; I never saw fault in him! But it turns out, behind closed doors, he was a drunk. And one day he took it too far and my aunt called my mom and told her everything. My family is pretty open about these things, and so I found out about it. I was so confused. Within a month, two of the adults I trusted most in my life ripped apart all of my childish securities. Auntie, I'm worried that the people I loved and trusted so much growing up aren't the people I thought they were.

Well... no. Of course they're not.

At least, these people weren't. And I'm sorry—particularly about what happened with your family, which must have done a real number on your already-shaken trust in people. Uncovering surprise flaws in a beloved friend or family member is something almost everyone experiences at least once, but your loved ones' dark sides are particularly dark and raise a lot of really tough questions. It's no wonder you're having a hard time coping.

But at the heart of what you're dealing with is this: the adults in your life are people, too. And people are, if nothing else, complicated.

For instance: A loving, devoted husband and father can run a financial scam that ruins the lives of a hundred people. A tough-as-nails guy covered in prison tattoos can weep like a baby every time he watches Dumbo. The girl who bullied you mercilessly all through high school can suddenly spot you a dollar, no big deal, when you come up short paying for your yearbook. And yes, your beloved "second mother" can also be a deeply irresponsible person who doesn't know her limits, and your cool, fun uncle can be a terrible husband and a mean drunk.

None of which has anything to do with age, by the way. You talk a lot about losing trust in grownups, but adulthood isn't insulation from being a bad person or making bad decisions; people can be jerks or swindlers or abusers or addicts at any age, and on an individual basis. Some people lie. Some people drink. Some people hit. And some of them hide it well enough that only those closest to them ever see them for who they really are.

But please believe me, Sparkler: the fact that you've encountered two of these cases in close succession is nothing but a crappy coincidence.

Which isn't all that comforting, I know, but it's a hell of a lot better than wandering around in terror that adults are all unknowable demons with sordid secret lives. And when you're tempted to give in to that fear, try this: making a simple agreement with yourself to trust people, until or unless they give you a reason not to.

Let yourself acknowledge the more unpleasant complexities of human nature without obsessing over it. Let the adults you do trust be a source of insight into the actions of the ones you don't any longer. Let yourself see people not for who you wished they were, but who they are, with all their flaws and in all their complexity—and let any given person's bad actions reflect on him, and only him. Make basic faith in the human race your default setting, and trust your own abilities to handle the occasional disappointment. Because you can. I promise.

Have you ever lost faith in an adult you trusted? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, addiction, trust, advice, grownups, drinking, adults, drunk driving

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About the Author
kat_rosenfield

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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