Love of learning is one of my key personality traits. My thirst for knowledge was given to me by my mother who was always well-read, especially in the sciences. Non-fiction, informational books were her mainstay. Autobiographies and biographies were also acceptable fare, as were historical novels (preferably with plenty of historical and very little novel).
My mother often played word games with us (there were six of us, four boys and two girls) and taught us to be quick thinkers. Wit is still a highly prized commodity in my family. It wasn’t until I was much older that I discovered that many of the games that she used to keep us quiet on family trips were, in fact, designed to measure and develop IQ.
Logic was her strong suit, still is, but music and art were not left out of the mix. We sang songs and learned to rhyme early on and, since there were six of us, the older ones taught the youngest.
I think sometimes it paid her back unkindly to have taught us so well. We, I especially, had a tendency to question the way things were and to debate philosophy and religion with her when many children were still playing less sophisticated games.
Because there were so many of us, individual attention at home was scarce, and school became a haven for me, a place where I could stand out from the crowd. I was a quiet child who, in my home environment, was allowed to stay in the background as younger more demanding siblings appeared on the scene. At school, however, I was a star pupil. I got all the attention I desired from teachers who found my quick mind and willingness to learn a refreshing change from farm kids whose parents didn’t care much about what their children learned aside from the usual FAA or 4H club fare.
Although my abilities made the teachers’ jobs easier, it soon made life among my peers more difficult. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. I was hooked. Making the grade was more important than developing social relationships. Besides, if I needed friends, I always had my books.
By age eleven, I had worked my way through the children’s section of our local public library, but when I reached for a book from the adult section, the librarian cut off my supply. It was time for mom to step in. I remember the day she walked into the library with me and quietly explained to the librarian that I was to be allowed to check-out and read any book in the library I desired. Go, Mom!
I then proceeded to work my way through the remainder of the library’s offerings. I never managed to finish. It wasn’t that the library was too big for me–I simply switched modes. I looked up from my books one day and saw the world. It was at that moment that I realized there was more learning to be had by experience than I had ever dreamed.
It was the end of the 1960’s, a time of personal experience, and I was again an avid and willing student. So began my years of harsh reality training, which I am grateful to have survived. My continued need for attention (in this much more dangerous classroom) drove me to make bad decisions, poor choices, and numerous mistakes.
In 1977, I joined the Navy and I traveled. I saw different countries and learned about different cultures. I learned enough foreign phrases to get around and to find a bathroom when necessary. But I became a dabbler, rather than immersing myself in these lessons. My method of learning was changing, becoming shallow. No longer caring to fully understand, I went through a phase, during which, I simply wanted to get by.
One day, I looked inward and realized I was sick. I had surrounded myself with sick people and created an artificial chaos, which I had pulled so tightly about myself I had been unable to see how ill I was. I realized I had only two options–change or die. I chose to change. Unfortunately those around me not only did not wish for change, they worked to dissuade me from my course. However, I had learned what it was to be sick, and now my thirst for knowledge drove me to learn what it was like to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.
I spent a lot of time in therapy, learning how to be functional.
Learning has always been a key area of focus for me. But what good is a key without someone to guide us in its use? I have been very fortunate in my life to have had a number of wonderful and knowledgeable guides. Though not all of them were formal educators, they have all been my teachers.
All of these teachers have something in common beyond what they have given to me. All of them are or were innovative, creative people. They have given more than they had to, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I have now become a teacher and mentor, offering what I have learned to those who are interested in the knowledge I have to offer. As an author, much of that knowledge is related to the craft of writing. Interestingly, with every workshop and presentation, I learn something new. I now understand that teaching and learning are inseparable. A joyful lesson, indeed for someone with a great love of learning.