Gretel Killeen

Words of wisdom in a roundabout way


I can’t believe how little I know.

I thought I’d be wise by this age.

I don’t know why I thought this would happen because I’ve never known anyone who has grown wiser with age – in fact most people seem to get stupid. I guess I must have been both conceited and deluded because the truth is that I’m now pretty sure I knew more about life when I was five than I do at this precise moment.

Did you notice? I couldn’t even commit to the previous sentence, at least not with too much conviction and certainty. Oh yes, that sentence oozed with blatant self-doubt because the only thing I do know about life is approximately how little I know.

You see, I can’t even commit to a fact about me… for fear I may sue myself.

But when I was five, wisdom was second-nature: I knew almost everything! I knew that if I stuck a peanut up my nose a tree would grow out my nostrils; that if I swam after eating I would immediately drown; and if our pet dog even dipped a paw in the ocean she would DEFINITELY be eaten by a shark.

When my children were five they knew a lot too. I remember trying to teach my daughter to read and her reply was, “No you read to me and I’ll tell you if you’re right.”

And I remember my son told me, with absolute conviction, that ‘a racist’ was someone who runs fast.

Oh yes, but now I find it so difficult to even itemise what I know – that I’ve been forced to develop a highly sophisticated, yet user-friendly, ‘System For Remembering’.

But now I wish I’d written it down because…I can’t remember what the system is.

I wonder if my brain has reached saturation point? The only way I can absorb new information is if I make space by forgetting something else. For example, now that I’ve learnt my Twitter login I can’t remember where I put my car keys.

But even worse is the fact that the things I simply can’t get out of my brain are completely and utterly passé. Spelling for example, manners for example, grammar for example! I remember the days when if you signed something with an ‘x’ it meant that you loved them. Nowadays it’s just polite punctuation, and if you don’t use it people think that you hate them.

I don’t know this and I don’t know that. I don’t know the important, or the trivial. I don’t know why the worst companies to try and contact by phone are actually all of the phone companies. I don’t know why I can’t charge my doctor for keeping me waiting. And I don’t know why God gave us the choice to doubt his/her existence while promising to burn us in hell if we do doubt.

It’s like my brain has passed its ‘use by date’.

Oh, I just remembered some things I do know…

  1. The colder the room you sleep in, the more likely you are to have nightmares.
  2. You secrete more ear wax when you are afraid.
  3. You will spend a total of three years of your life on a toilet.
  4. A hummingbird can fly backwards.

See what I mean, I’m not that wise, although at least I’m conscious that I don’t know things, so maybe that’s actually a sign I am wise. Plus I not only know that I don’t know everything, but I’m also wise enough to not give a rat’s arse if seeking the wisdom of others makes me look stupid.


Maybe I need to redefine the word ‘wise’. Maybe ‘wisdom’ is not determined by what you know, but by knowing who to ask when you haven’t got a clue.

Oh yes, that sounds very wise.

Bravo moi!

Perhaps my brain is a modern stream-lined construct, and the envy of all corporations, because rather than being cluttered with permanent staff I just hire casuals on a need-to-know basis.

Cost effective, time-efficient and easily upgraded.

Oh yeah I’m on a roll!

Indeed maybe I’m one of the wisest creatures in the world and I just don’t know how to use my brain correctly. Maybe there are great bridges linking my brain compartments and I simply haven’t traversed them.

Well you know what? I’m wise enough not to worry about that.

I’m wise enough to realise that this hitherto limitation is now one of my greatest assets.

Maybe I should get an agent and sublet those bits of my brain as storage space to strangers?? I could invent the app!

My God, no wonder I can’t be called ‘wise’.

I’m an absolute bloody genius!

Gretel Killeen

Gretel Killeen is the author of more than twenty books. At various times she hosts radio and television programs across the country, works as a journalist, stand-up comic and voice artist, and writes and directs feature films and documentaries.

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  • Middle Child

    When I was a kid I thought that the trees made the wind happen. Living totally in the country and never having been near a city – I figured that it was the trees around me whipping around thatc reated the wins – made sense – when they moved gently it was a gentle wind

  • JBM

    When I was a kid i thought i knew everything too until i got married and found out I had been right all all along lol

  • Terry

    I don’t thtink it is true about the nightmares cos of a cold room though lol

  • Terry

    Loved you on Celebrity Come Dine with Me Australial!

  • Anne Lenton

    You are such a beautiful mum and person! Hope you write another book Gretel you are a great roll model

  • SindyD

    It is part of my ritual to grab a cuppa in the morning and read whats on the big smoke newsite and i missed monday only saw this wisdom piece now and loved it sent it to my family and friends 🙂