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This I Believe
I believe in the value of following my curiosity and of what educators like to call “lifelong learning.” Yes, I was that kid who turned over rocks to check out the ant nests underneath. I was that nerd in the basement making colored smoke with my chemistry set. I was that teenager trying to contact the ghosts of long-dead celebrities—just to see if it worked.
I came by my curiosity honestly. My dad was a draftsman and self-taught engineer, a tool-and-die man and mechanical wizard who read everything from Edgar Cayce to Art Buchwald to UFO exposés. My mom was a homemaker who was licensed as both a cosmetologist and an upholsterer. She could refinish a hardwood floor or brew up a caldron of lye soap with equal panache.
Why is the need to know “why” and “how” so important to me? Partly I believe that knowledge in one area can often be applied to another, bringing a deeper understanding of both. But mostly, for me learning new things is necessary to truly being alive. How can one live without wondering? And how can one wonder without finding out?
Not that it’s always easy to maintain the pursuit of curiosity as a grown-up. After earning degrees in art and commercial art, I embarked on a career as a graphic designer. I married and had a daughter, and for several years the only thing I had the energy to be curious about was how much sleep I’d manage to get on any given night. But as children become more independent, opportunities return.
When my daughter reached that awkward age—too old for latchkey, too young to be home alone—I left my full-time job to work at home as a freelance designer. Being a freelancer sometimes leaves me with time on my hands, time I am happy to take advantage of. In the past five years I’ve written two books of local ghost stories and the text for a photographic history of Ohio. My research for those projects inspired a decision to begin graduate studies in library science—all the better to pursue my own interests and help others follow theirs. And oh, yes, I just had my first guitar lesson, from a 15-year-old friend of my daughter. I critique his writing, he teaches me to play “Blackbird.” Everybody wins.
As I grow older I plan to keep following where curiosity leads me, because I believe that wondering and learning are important keys to staying healthy and young, at least in my heart. I plan to be the eccentric old lady whose room at the assisted living facility is piled with books, with a bird feeder outside the window and a telescope pointed at the sky. And when my mind and body reach a point where I can no longer reach for new knowledge in this world, I will know that truly, it is time for me to leave.
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