I’m lying on a cot under the stars on my annual Colorado river trip, in 68-degree weather and thinking, If we care to go there, everything we conceptualize can be expanded to something bigger than our own understanding, we just have to know how to access all the information.
I grew up in a conservative home. It was not one where you questioned faith or learned what to believe based on your own exploration, but rather a home where you were told right and wrong and if you chose wrong, you were chastised.
I didn’t know the difference from one family to the next, but I knew what it was like to be around my father and my mother. I loved my father and I loved that he was willing to have deep talks and let me share my big thoughts. It was my mother who barked orders, told me to stop talking, and repeatedly asked me what I learned in church because according to my behaviors, I had learned nothing.
I could have turned to my dad for more—more conversion, more answers to my questions, more quality time—but he was not always available as an alcoholic. I learned not to push my luck.
Now I’m 45. I am halfway through the life I believe I will live, and I have more questions than ever. The adage, “The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know,” is more true to me now than ever.
And, I’m curious to know all I can. I’m open to learning from anyone who wants to teach me. Not because I believe everyone has something they want to teach, but because I know I will always have something to learn.
So here I am, under the stars, listening and learning from a friend who truly gives me his time, once a year on the river. This happens to be one of those friends who I actually care to learn from because he is so researched, so intelligent, and so giving of his thoughts in a kind and non-threatening way. He laughs with me when I say something silly and he takes me seriously when I really want to understand something I can’t quite grasp.
We are opposites in terms of politics, finance, and business. But we spend our time together learning from different perspectives. We have a minimum of 15 years difference in age and our lives are in completely different stages of life. But I love learning from him. I love every contradictory thought and the way he totally challenges my fixed mindset. It is because of this interaction that I start to really understand that our beliefs are truly only beliefs.
An obvious statement I know, but as we all experience the current social unrest and have to decide how we choose to respond to so much overwhelming stimuli, I hope many of us are digging down deep to uncover our hidden prejudices.To really question why we have the beliefs we do and whether or not they still serve us. As my son says, “It’s crazy to think that we can all see the same exact thing, but depending on our experiences in life, it might look different to each of us.”
This isn’t about being smart. (And agonizing over whether or not I’m smart enough has been my loudest gremlin for years.) This has do with opening your mind and considering the views you have shut out for one reason or another. It’s about seeking out mentors who have your personal growth in mind. For me, it’s also about NOT feeling ashamed for what I don’t understand or haven’t yet learned.
I want us all to celebrate the learning and the choices we have to be more curious. I want to see my daughter, my children, and my granddaughter feel confident and safe to say, “Can you tell me more, I’m not sure I understand,” or “Why do you think that?”and “What does that mean?”
Learning to be curious broadens our mind, teaches us new ways to navigate and problem-solve all types of situations. Curiosity deepens the meaning of something that you already thought you understood. It gives you new appreciation for people, places, and things you didn’t even know existed. It matures our mind and expands our vocabulary. It grows in us the eternal desire to learn. And learning lessens our judgy minds and makes us more interested in others.
I’m so grateful for those people in my life who have valued our relationship enough to engage in healthy banter and those who have kindly questioned me when I seemed misguided or validated me when I had something of value to share with them. These individuals are gems, and when I find them, I know to value our time and to never take them for granted.
I want to make sure that as Aba I step into a role that embraces all of those toddler questions of “What is that?” and “What does that mean?” and “Why, why, why?” And if I don’t know the answer, I want us to find a trusted resource together. I want to admit that I don’t know something so that I role-model real and honest vulnerability for her. I want to acknowledge Elena when she asks a thoughtful question and I want to also ask her for her opinion—always. I want her to learn that it’s the right thing to do to ask others their thoughts and I hope that if she feels safe to keep asking me questions, she’ll keep asking others questions as well. In this crazy, upside-down world we think that the more we know makes us appear important, but the truth of relationships is that we are much more appreciated when we listen and ask questions.
I love that children are innately curious and want to understand how the world works. We could all learn something from the way they seek answers and have no fear of asking “Why?” I absolutely love it, and I never want to keep her curious mind from exploring!