Learning is a never-ending process.
I’ve been thinking recently about why I think the way I think (as you might imagine, it’s been an interesting series of thoughts!).
And right when I thought I would think myself into a frenzy of nothingness, one of my favorite quotes (and the footer of my old-school @hotmail email account for the last zillion years) popped into my mind:
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn” by Maya Angelou.
And I took it as a sign that the answer to my thinking-conundrum was looking right at me the whole time.
As a person who is relatively educated (I say relatively, of course, because even higher education pushes us in a particular direction to a particular depth). Our educational system is fairly linear. Which, in my experience at least, allows for depth of knowledge with limits to its breadth.
So, I’m relatively educated.
I have three higher education degrees. All of them with a particular focus on psychology. I’m a nerd for understanding this thing called life and the way us humans experience it… the good, the bad and the ugly.
While academia seemed like the most direct route to learning important things, I’ve come to know that it is an important but limited perspective. I have always wanted to know more, look deeper and search further.
(Now, I realize my goal was to BE better, to FEEL better).
Both of my masters degrees required writing a thesis, and I chose studies involving disenfranchised populations.
Each time, I faced judgement, my own fear and the beauty and grace of the people I was co-creating with (it always felt awkward calling human beings ‘research participants’… one of the many reasons I disliked research altogether).
The grace I was extended included:
>> allowance for my innocence — even when my ignorance could easily have picked at their own wounds.
>> attempts to teach me things that a book never could — including how to have (or develop) real empathy — by simply being gracious, authentic and vulnerable with a complete stranger.
>> guidance through and past the stages that the process brought up in myself: fear, insight, outrage, helplessness, anger, acceptance.
>> educating me that what I thought or felt they ‘should’ or ‘must’ be struggling with often missed the mark… so to keep an open mind and heart, and let go of assumptions (even well-researched ones).
Ultimately, without knowing it, the people I was ‘studying’ gave ME more than I ever could hope to offer in return.
For which I’ll be eternally grateful.
Looking back, I wish I had taken more time to document my own process, my own transformation. The shifts were massive.
But of course, sometimes the insights and changes didn’t come until much later.
Some continue to happen even now.
I’m a watcher. And a listener.
I’ve always learned most by watching and listening rather than telling, directing and freaking out. Not that I didn’t try those things — believe me, I did.
However, I had to learn that watching, listening and asking worked so much better. Because I used to be the pointer, teller, director (sometimes, I still am — just ask my husband and kids!).
And each time I learned something new about myself or others, it was like a lightbulb lit up a corner of a room in my soul that I had never even noticed before.
And reminded me again how little I knew.
How little any of us really know.
I’ve learned there is so much more to learn, I’ll literally never know anything at all.
>> I’ve learned that we humans have a need to be seen and validated, which can motivate us to do and say things that are reactionary, judgemental and harsh.
>> I’ve learned not to make big decisions in reaction to or from strong emotion.
>> I’ve learned that being authentic and vulnerable builds trust — most especially in oneself.
>> I’ve learned that anger and judgement most often is rooted in fear and a sense of powerlessness.
>> I’ve learned that the people with the most valuable things to say do not speak from anger or outrage.
>> I’ve learned to ask questions and listen as the foundation of making decisions that are in integrity with my values.
>> I’ve learned that there is always more than one valid truth in any situation.
I’ve learned everything I’ve learned because I’ve made all the mistakes — or at least a lot of them.
I’ve learned that I’ll probably make a lot more mistakes… which I’m okay with as long as I vow to continue to learn from them.
Learning never ends. It’s a cyclical and ongoing process. But mostly, “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” (~ Maya Angelou)
What about you? I’d love to read your comments, feedback and experience with learning as a cyclical, never-ending process.
Originally published at https://www.tanyatinney.com on September 28, 2020.