Every day, you learn something new. Regardless of your age or occupation or any other distinguishing factor, we all have the beautiful opportunity to enter each day with a fresh set of eyes, ready to expand our minds for whatever may come.
I’m grateful that I am not stagnant. To think of my mind stopped learning at a certain point, especially a point in the past when I was certainly less wise and experienced, what a dreadful time that would be! Or to think of never learning from an experience, good or bad, just stuck in the same place over and over again.
Learning, at least for young people, tends to have a negative connotation attached to it. We think of classrooms, stressful tests, homework, and a formal educational system that tries to address students in a one-size-fits-all way that obviously doesn’t fit for everyone.
So with that bitter taste in our mouths, we might see anything that is listed as “educational” and cringe. How dreadful and boring that book or video probably is. But what I’m most grateful for when it comes to learning is the freedom it gives me to explore what piques my curiosity. I can seek out the ideas that interest me and just dive head-first into the subject.
I’m also grateful for learning things I may not have chosen for myself or what I might find impractical in the moment. What will I ever need long-form math for? Or random philosophers alive hundreds of years ago? Heck, even an opinion that is completely contrary to your worldview?
These questionable topics are, in the moment, not the most fun or stimulating. But with the right mindset, anything can and should turn into a learning opportunity. Ask yourself, what can I gain from this class or moment? It appears unnecessary right now, but what role could this serve beyond this point? Most likely, what seems tedious right now might be teaching you another lesson that is not listed on the curriculum.
I’m grateful to approach each day with an open mind, accepting of every new idea that might cross my path. In almost every capacity but especially in politics, we tend to close up our views, build up walls (pun intended) and shield ourselves from opposing ideas as if they’re poison. But we have the gift to let down our guard, put aside our preconceived notions, and just listen to one another.
Or even learning about history, but only seeing the majority’s side of things without acknowledging the immense diversity present and the many groups who may offer new insights into “old news.” In that way, I’m grateful I can, in any situation, become a student. I’m grateful for my ability to listen to others, retain information, comprehend that information, and adjust my current mindset to include those new ideas. The brain, always remolding itself with new wrinkles of growth.
I’m grateful for the opportunities outside the classroom to learn. And really, that can be any time, anywhere. Maybe it’s talking to new people I might not have ran into otherwise. Exposing myself to content I wouldn’t have chosen for myself but was just curious. Especially with all the ways we can communicate with one another, near and far, our chances to learn multiply tenfold. Let’s take advantage of that, using that gift of technology to encourage anyone to speak their truth, to denounce false information when it arises, and allowing for engaging dialogue without the emotions that often surface in sensitive areas.
Yes, I’m grateful that I have my beliefs and I can proudly stand up for those, but I’m grateful for when I’m not defending myself and simply allowing all voices the equal chance to express themselves. Learning isn’t about choosing the loudest person and only listening to them, but instead, learning is observing and listening. It’s thinking critically and asking questions when things don’t add up.
So yes, I think this appreciation for learning takes a back burner very often when conversing with others about hot-button topics or otherwise. We look for short and sweet answers. We jump to conclusions. We form opposing sides to illustrate things. But that’s often barely a smidgen of every detail present, the tip of the iceberg.
If we have the gift to slow down and really allow ourselves to soak in others’ ideas and at the very least empathize with their position, let’s utilize that gift more often. It makes sense for a classroom, but even more so when we get out into the world and start talking. As the saying goes, we’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should be grounded in what we stand for, yes, but we should also be well-rounded in what we understand. And if we’re unfamiliar with something, we’re blessed enough to have endless resources at our fingertips to learn more.
How do you take each day to learn something new? If you don’t already, watch a TED Talk or research a new topic you’re interested in, just for the sake of learning.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie