“It is better to know how to learn than to know.”
My first “real job” was behind the food counter at our local movie theater. I’m American, born and bred. The job was about as American as you could get, filled with popcorn and soda, candy, movies, a first kiss and late night diners chatting over coffee after work. I was 16. I’ve had many jobs since, but I often joke to my six year old son that the movie theater was about as good as it gets.
Back then anything was possible. Everything was ahead of me, the possibilities were endless. I was loved and cared for by my family, and my extended family. I was (and I am still) truly blessed by the people in my life. I followed the common American path to college, having absolutely not a clue in the world what I wanted to be or do with my career or life. And so I studied and graduated 4 years later with a Bachelors of Science in Social Sciences of which I have yet to utilyze in any way, shape or form. My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to school. I also spent years paying back student loans. I worked my tail off waitressing, bartending, in portrait photography, teaching horse riding, offices, hardwares, you name it, before happily settling into life as a Montessori teacher. But oh the movie theater. It brings back the nostalgia of youth. If you came to the refreshments counter back in 1996 and told me I would be living happily in Ireland in 2019 with my husband and 3 small children, singing the “hello everybody” song in Montessori each morning to 4 and 5 year old Irish children, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. I’m leaning toward disbelief. Yes, I think that’s about right. Not disappointment. Not jubilation either. I would probably peg you as one of the customers who leaves empty beer and liquor bottles in the theaters we cleaned every evening… Because at 16 you just haven’t a clue where life’s going to bring you. At least I didn’t!
My path took many twists and turns, and as cliche as it may sound, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve always been extremely independent and adventurous. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve relished in the ups and learned the most from my (many) mistakes. I have a wonderful family, and have met amazing friends along the way. The twists and turns, family and friends; these are what have shaped me the most.
Where do we learn the most in life? Where are we shaped and formed into our current selves? For me it wasn’t a college or school. I’ve learned my lessons through the jobs, careers, friendships, relationships and children in my life. I’ve learned to learn, and not to pretend I always know. Problem solving and adaptability are the greatest tools. Life’s now full of sudden changes of plans and thinking on my toes, embracing the positives no matter how big or small, and laughing at myself… Often. Life’s about letting go, choosing battles, getting a bit of sleep and it’s fueled by strong coffee and sheer determination. I didn’t learn any of this in college (bar my love of strong coffee however in those days it was enjoyed after a late night out rather than late nights comforting or feeding little babies).
Sometimes I look back at the Movie Theater and laugh at the blissfully ignorant person who was 16 year old Me. I knew nothing of the real world and yet I didn’t pretend to. There’s something so refreshing about life before I was led to believe I knew all the answers. What followed next was the false grandure of adulthood that suddenly falls to pieces when you set eyes upon or hold that little baby bundle for the first time. There are many life events that burst people’s bubble, but for me when I first held my little boy in my arms I realised I didn’t really have a clue. I didn’t have all the answers, and I never would. I did know I would try my damnest to get us all by with lots of love, laughter, and all the ups and downs together.
Looking back there’s something liberating about this acceptance. I do not pretend I have all the answers. But I am learning how to learn. So yes, these days it’s less about knowing it all and more about winging it and flying by the Seat of My Pants!