I’ve been thinking lately of the term “life-long learner”. Prior to moving to Darien and sending our kids to Darien public school, I heard that term used a lot at private schools our children had attended: New Canaan Country School and Southbank International School to name just two. These schools claim to teach children how to be life-long learners, people who ask questions, take risks, thirst for knowledge, and continually improve themselves.
I’m thinking about this term again not necessarily in the context of my children, but more as it applies to me. Am I setting a good example for my kids? Am I showing them what it means to be a life-longer learner and nurturing this in them? I exhibited ambitious drive and natural curiosity when I was in school. Why would I lose those parts of myself now that I’m a parent? After all life-long learners are supposed to enjoy learning their entire life, not just when they are in school.
I had one of those “uh oh” moments when my children and I were at the dinner table, sharing the “highs” and “lows” of our day with each other. My children pointed out to me that they would like to hear about something I did that doesn’t have to do with doctor’s appointments, traffic, school responsibilities, groceries, laundry, or errands.
Apparently most of my “highs” and “lows” have to do with these things and my children were telling me that they wanted me to share something outside of this mundane realm.
Fortunately an “ah ha!” moment followed this “uh oh”. I was thrilled that my kids wanted to hear something interesting about me, my day, that they saw me as a person in my own right not just someone who exists to care for them. I realized that I needed to stretch myself, become more interested in some new things, and get more interesting for my kids and myself.
As I started to think about how to get started, I did not have to look far for inspiration. My sister Hejung Press first came to mind because she made a huge change at a stage in her life that is very similar to where I am today.
At age 38 with two kids under the age of 5 swirling around her legs, she decided to start the long arduous journey to medical school. She already had an undergraduate degree, a business degree, an acceptable job, and two young children. But she did not let her age or her circumstances deter her from pursuing her dream.
Having absolutely no pre-med courses under her belt, Hejung started from scratch and went to her local community college to take all of the science prerequisites. After the kids were tucked into bed, instead of winding down with a TV remote and glass of wine, she would crack open the science textbooks and MCAT prep materials and study into the wee hours of the night.
“Medical school had been in the back of my mind for a while, and I finally decided to go for it. Not once did I look back and think I was making a mistake. I made a plan and just pushed forward,” Hejung said. Fast forward 15 years, and she is a partner in a private radiology practice called Vista Radiology, P.C.
What will the next thing be for me? What will it be for you? There’s nothing to lose. I figure at the very least I'd have a more captivating “high” to share with my kids over dinner. At the very best I’ll be a lifelong learner—continually improving and becoming the best me.