Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning Curve

A principal friend of mine told me recently about his job, “When I first started this position, I had not the foggiest idea what I was doing. I just kind of wandered around for 6 months.” He laughs, “I can’t believe they paid me with how little I was actually producing. I suppose it’s just that learning curve we all must ascend. And it’s steep.”

I spoke to a group of outgoing student missionaries on Friday night and I had similar feelings. They stood before me, and all I could think was: Wow, they have no idea what their getting themselves into. I don’t mean they’ll be miserable. I don’t mean they’re somehow immature or ignorant. But no one ever knows with 100% certainty what they are getting themselves into. Ever. No matter where these students end up, there will be surprises and unexpected turn-of-events. Traveling to a new country has a steep learning curve for anyone.

Before I left for Cambodia, I knew everything would be new, but I had no idea how very hard it would be for me to adjust to all the newness. Looking back on it now (and obviously revisiting it every time I speak about it), I can’t believe I did that. I struggle to understand how my bold little nineteen year-old self had the guts (or naivety) to sign up for a year in Cambodia. What was I thinking? Well, in a way, I wasn’t thinking. I couldn’t possibly predict what that year would hold. Ignorance is bliss.

I imagine if we could all somehow put our future experiences and feelings on like a hat, and just feel what it would be like to take that job, to marry that person, to make that left-hand turn, we’d probably never leave home. If we could actually know for sure what a future choice or decision would lead us to, we’d be stagnant. We’d never move.

Because I know, that if the day before I was to leave for Cambodia, someone put on the movie of what the next ten months would look like for me, I never would have gotten on that plane.

This makes me grateful and humble.

I can be grateful because it’s probably a gift that we don’t know the end from the beginning—what recovery from that surgery will feel like, what heart break feels like—because we’d live pretty safe lives as a result.

I can be humble because I walk into nearly every situation knowing full well that the best I can bring to it is a childlike awareness. That’s the best I’ve got. Your first time driving stick shift is just going to be bumpy. But once you get through those back country roads, you’ll drive without even thinking about how hard it was to learn. We usually get through it and forget about it.

There are good odds that I will look back on my life post-college and think, “Oh dear God, I had so much to learn.”

There’s a good chance that years from now, Jeremy and I will look back on our first, second, or eighth years of marriage and think, “Ha, we had no idea what we were doing.

In fifty years I will still be learning. And recognizing that any of the times I’ve thought I had life figured out, I was farthest from it. We show up. We do our best. We need not fret about the future, because we'll get through it and knowing ahead of time would only make us miserable.

The best I can bring is an awareness.

An open mind.

An open heart.



And humanity.


Kylie said...

Oh, my friend, you've taught me much about this idea of living in the moment. I'm glad, for now, that we get to journey through this stage together.