“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” ~Henry Ford
Ever since I hit 40, I’ve been on a quest to try new things. I originally attributed this quest to a desire to do as much as I can with my life while I still can do it. Midlife scares the bejeezus out of me daily because I know that from here it’s merely a blink of an eye to the day when I’m 70, assuming of course that I’m graced with that many years. The more I’ve reflected on the more open attitude I’ve taken about life since turning 40, the more I consider how many new things I’ve tried than I would have even considered 10 years ago, the clearer it has become that my desire to do these new things is not rooted in a thirst for adventure but rather in a pilgrimage for knowledge.
Ever since I was young, learning has been important to me. I knew in grade school that I wanted to get an advanced degree after four years of college. I’ve never considered any class a waste of time. I enjoy studying new a wide variety of things. At CU, I studied astronomy, Latin, Chicana studies, and the history of the English language. I’ve seriously considered pursuing a law degree for the sake of learning and not for the sake of practicing it. Outside college, I’ve taken cooking classes, burlesque classes, wine classes, and rock climbing classes. I’ve tried my hand at cake decorating, snowboarding, swing dancing, and ropes courses.
Even outside of classes, things I’ve done have been an education. Last year when I let Rosie (the tarantula) walk on my hand at the Butterfly Pavilion, for example, I learned that maybe I’m not as afraid of spiders as I thought I was. Rosie was actually quite nice in that she tickled me as she walked across my hand and she didn’t bite me. She didn’t even visit me in my dreams, nice spider she is. I learn something new every single time I step onto my yoga mat, which is probably why after two years I still look forward to practicing. A little over a year ago when I did the Polar Plunge in Boulder, I learned that two minutes of discomfort can yield days of euphoria. And, when my boys have a question, I’m quick to the jump on the internet or go to the library and find us all an answer. It’s a little known fact that there’s a reason why my sisters joke that I’m their Cliff Clavin.
I’ve been thinking as I approach 44 that the only way a person can remain young as their body ages is by trying new things and remaining open to novel experiences. I get depressed if I’m not regularly discovering and then reveling in something new about life, my friends and family, myself, or the world. This morning Joe told me that hammerhead sharks swim in schools during the day. Good to know, I thought. Knowledge can sometimes come from unlikely sources, so it’s best to pay attention. The happiest people I know are the ones who are insatiably curious and open to life. When I leave this world, at whatever age I depart, my plan is to graduate from my class summa cum laude.