The Learning Curve

Nothing teaches like experience does. We can hear something a thousand times and forget about it a thousand more. We can see the same thing on a daily basis and never notice until it’s gone.

This is life. This is the way we learn. We learn through the viscera of experience. There are books on any topic you can find. There are “How to” and “Self-help” books that can be a platform but still, nothing teaches like experience.

I ever tell you about the time I burned myself on a stove when I was a kid? This was not one of my prouder moments, of course. I instantly regretted my choice but this is the way it goes when people make mistakes.
For some reason, I wondered if the stovetop was hot because the color wasn’t red anymore. I was amazed by the electric top and the change of color, which seemed amazing that something so hot would cool down so quickly. Needless to say, I touched the heating element with my finger.

Call this something a stupid kid would do or call this curiosity. Call this anything you choose but I call this a lesson. I remember burning the tip of my pointing finger. And of course this hurt. What I remember most is my Aunt Sondra comforting me for my mistake. She later explained, “Now you’ve learned to never do that again.”

There is something to this. There is and was a painful truth to the lesson. There are other times when the lessons in life were more figurative than literal. And yes, I’ve been burned before. Yes, I’ve made mistakes more than once. I’ve done the same things and expected different results.
Or did I?
Maybe I was hopeful something would change. Maybe I hoped things would be different. Or, maybe I was missing out on the lessons. Maybe the science and the pathology behind my actions were an indication of another problem. I mean, why else would someone burn themselves, right?

Why do we find ourselves in the same position or facing the same regrets? Why do we do or say things we know we’ll have to apologize for? And why do we say hurtful things to people we love?
Why do we do any of this? Obviously there must be a science behind this.

Why do we argue? Or why do we find ourselves in the same place and feeling the same way? And then we look around and we ask ourselves questions like, “Why does this always happen to me?”

There are books that tell us how to live our life. There are books out about parenting and living. There are books that can teach about skills. And joining the technical world; there are videos on everything.
Want to learn about welding?
Go on line.
Want to learn CPR?
Watch a video.
Want to understand more about the ozone layer?
Look it up.

Look anything up but let me ask a simple question. What good are books or videos without the blood and guts of our life? What is information without organs or a heart?

What does a book tell you about the feeling of depression. Aside from the possibly accurate description, no one knows what the internals feel like.
Aside from the similarity of experience, no one truly understands the inner workings of someone else. As hard  as I try, I cannot feel what you feel nor could anyone feel what I feel. I can relate. I can empathize. I can feel similarly. And so can you. Yet, at the same time, life is individualized in a very special way.

People relate to the idea of financial concerns. I’m sure of this. Some people can relate to letters in the mail from debt collectors, or opening the fridge countless times, only to find that it is still empty.

Meanwhile, aside from the plate of food and aside from the need to keep the lights on; the heating bill still needs to be paid, the car needs repairs and gas and its not even 9:00 on a Monday morning.
There are people depending upon you and yet, all you have is the love in your heart. Unfortunately, Mr. Mortgage doesn’t seem to care how much you love your family. This is something I’ve experienced in my life. Others have gone through this as well. However, this story is mine. There are many others like it and there are many others with worse circumstances, but this one is mine. The last thing I wanted to hear from anyone is, “I’ve been there,” because no, they really haven’t. They were never in my kitchen. they never stood in my doorway. they never stood in my skin and looked at my family with the utmost desperation.

For some reason we forget about our imperfectness. We hold ourselves accountable for literally everything. We beat ourselves up and wish we were different. We look at our life and wonder why it goes the way it does.

Or, how about the love you feel for your child? How about the way you wish you could get along with your parents? How about the way people fight when they wish they could just get along? But yet, as hard as they try, the two never meet and neither of them see eye to eye.
Why is this?

There is no teacher like life itself. Some lessons come easier than others. Unfortunately, some lessons come too late.
But at least they come.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a position which makes us somewhat unteachable. And then one day, somehow, we get it.
A time comes when our eyes open and we have that so-called “Ah-ha!” moment. And sometimes this happens too late. The damage is done and the people we wished were still around are gone. This is the sad part because it’s too late to tell them, “I get it now,” or “Hey, I’m really sorry,” and show them how different we can be.

They say, “You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.”
I can attest to this. I’m sure you can too.
We can all say this is true. I believe this with all my heart.

I have a scar on the back of my head. This comes from a lesson in violence. This was a lesson about shame and pride and how the two can hurt me.
I have pictures of a little girl that I don’t get to see anymore. This is another time I learned about the lessons of shame and pride.

Someone once told me, “It has to hurt if it is to heal.”
In fairness, I am not sure which way to feel about that one. I’m not sure if a broken heart ever mends the same way.
I’m not sure if the loss of a child’s love or the loss of a relationship ever heals up. I’m not sure if we ever forget the pain (sort of like the time I burned my finger on the stove).
There are times when life happens and lessons are revealed. There are moments when awareness comes and finally, at last, we see things in a different light.
We see ourselves from a clearer perspective, and suddenly we understand why we did what we did or say what we said. The truth of it all is that although we learned our lessons; sometimes, we learned them too late. The pain is what woke us up and the ends are unalterable. Or worse, they are unfixable.

There is a gross misconception that as parents, we know what we are doing. There is also a misperception that age or time means we know more.
Each and every one of us has our own interpretation. We all learn at an individual pace and we all retain information differently. Sometimes, the students are really the teachers. And sometimes the lessons we learned are the wrong ones. The hardest part about this is to unlearn and then relearn to be rid of our personal biasness.

I look back at the years of my life. I look back at my struggles, which were very real to me. Some of them are really painful.
I can see why some of my relationships ended. I can see where my insecurity sabotaged and destroyed the bonds between friends and family.
I can see who I was as opposed to who I am now. And sometimes this hurts. Sometimes this feels lonely to me. Sometimes, I’m just grateful to “Not” be that person anymore.
Sometimes, as hard as this may seem; I am grateful that at least I have learned not to burn myself again. Although, to be honest, nothing ever heals the heart like my Aunt Sondra did when I burned myself. 

Along the way, I learned never beat yourself up about the way you lived your life. Just remember, there’s a learning curve. There was a time you didn’t know what you know now, and even if you did, you obviously didn’t understand very well. Remember there’s a motive and a purpose behind everything. There is a reason why people become unteachable. There is a science to us all.

I have learned that I cannot do anything about the life I lived before now. I can’t take away the guilt or the shame of a moment in my past. However, I can forgive myself.

There are rights that we have. For example, I do have the right to heal. Above all things; I have the right to better myself.  And lastly, I can wish all I want (and so can you). I can wish things like, “I wish I never said that,” or “I wish I never did this.” But wishing does not create change. Wishing does not teach lessons. Life does. Experience does. This means all we can do is try not to burn ourselves to the best of our ability. And the world is an imperfect place. Most of all, so are we.

It’s better we learn this now because otherwise, we’ll learn the hard way.
And I don’t know about you, but me, I don’t want to be burned anymore.


2 thoughts on “The Learning Curve

  1. Indeed learning is a product of our life experiences. Experiences that create neuron networks in our brains and these become the mind models we use as lenses as we look at new emergent situations. That is the way we are hard wired for survival at the individual and species levels.

    But the downside of such “Learning” is hardening of our belief systems which over time prevent us from seeing new ‘out of the box’ possibilities.

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