Ask me what you think I’m good at and my answer is usually ‘studying’. I think I’m a good student. Give me a meaty subject or one I need to support someone through and I’ll pick it up. I’ll read through all that I can that I think is relevant. If I can chat through more ambiguous chapters with someone proficient, I’ll do it. I love wrapping my brain around something new. It lights me up. I honestly want to do a PhD just so I can set time aside to get right into the heart of a matter that intrigues me.
I learn people too. I don’t mean to, I just do. I listen to people and pick up on their language. I try to use it back with them to strengthen connection. I am getting better at hearing what their priorities are and I log them away when I can. I remember stories that people told me as facts about themselves to help me understand them better. I like most people I ever meet and believe that they all have something to teach me.
It was only recently that I realised the subtext to this one and I smirk now as I put it in writing. I will still always treasure learning, but from a slightly different motivation now. You see, when I sat down and thought about learning as a defining feature of ‘me’, I had to ask myself why it was so. The answer was so simple and yet such a surprise. It was because, for a long time, I felt incomplete, insufficient , not quite worthy. Learning wasnt a process of betterment, it was of completion. The filling of gaping holes with something worthy.
I watched a tv programme recently and someone said, ‘if I don’t achieve this, I’ll have put so much into it that I won’t have anything left’. I sat there and very confidently replied in my mind-voice, ‘But everyone is always whole, so of course that’s not true. Why do people look at something as failure and then assume that failure somehow equates to a genuine loss of self’? And yet, here in my own life, I sat feeling like I was still half a jigsaw box of pieces being put together only through other people. Here I was in my own life trying to prove that whole-ness to myself.
I am grateful then, that my path now is still about learning and studying, but of how to be of service to others. The amazing thing about this path is that, in preparing myself to help others, I have to consolidate myself from the inside out, strip away the unwanted layers that we acquire negotiating daily life. Studying isn’t about topping up but filling out. It’s no longer so I can better communicate about one topic with others, but so I better understand how I can help others. And with that small but vital shift comes a far better feeling subtext.