“when i was younger, so much younger than today
i never needed anybody’s help in any way
but now these days are gone, i’m not so self-assured
now i find i’ve changed my mind, i’ve opened up the door“
– from “help!” by the beatles
on saturday night, i shared the train home with a family of what appeared to be a pair of grandparents, two sisters and the 5 children they had between them. the kids’ ages ranged between 6 to about 12 or 13 and they caused a huge ruckus both at the train station, where i first encountered them, and the woodlands checkpoint.
the oldest boy, who looked like he was nearing his teens, had a swagger that foretold of future arrogance and pride. as the natural leader of the pack, the other children admired his extra years of experience and imitated that swagger to a tee. they behaved like they knew everything, needed nothing and had a general disdain for any form of chastising offered by the adults.
it reminded me a little of when i was 11 and had just caught wind of the news that i have been appointed the next assistant head prefect. a couple of minutes after i received that news, i did something that warranted a scolding from my teacher and, according to my classmates, gave her a defiant look that said, “i don’t care, i know better than you.”
then there was the time when i was at my most pretentious, spouting mis-quoted lines from random works of shakespeare at a camp run by people who had degrees in mass communication and were far more well-versed in literature than any silly 16-year-old could be.
both those times, i thought i knew it all. both those times, i thought i deserved respect.
when john lennon wrote “help!“, he was but 25 years old. it seems rather absurd that someone in his mid-twenties would have much to write about being “younger, so much younger than today” and imply that he has grown up enough since then to acknowledge that he does need help. it’s almost as if at some stage of his life, he was forced to eat humble pie and therefore recognized that no, he doesn’t know it all. considering he was just 25 at the time, he could very well be referring to his years as a trouble-making teenager who tried his hand at making music a career.
i thought about those kids yesterday night as i prepared to head back to seremban and “help!” came to mind. at this point in my life, i feel like i know nothing at all, that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience yet to be learned. most of it can only be obtained in humility, through admitting that i can’t do it alone. how very different i am now compared to the awkward cockiness when i was so much younger than today!
guess it’s not so absurd after all for a surprisingly wise young man like lennon to pen that song.