Asking and answering the question, “What will be different about me in six months?” directed my thoughts to other times in my life when intimacy with a life challenge resulted in personal growth.
I thought about the developmental process of my children from birth to six months. I experienced their evolution from infants dependent on me for everything to independent beings. In their infancy, their needs seemed very basic to me and I imagined that their understanding of their needs was innate, without depth of analysis. It seemed that they communicated “Hey Lady, feed me, change me, hold me, then repeat!” I complied until I realized their needs changed as they grew to understand that the world offered choices and that they more they developed the more their menu of options expanded. Their development and curiosity about themselves and the world around them modeled what should be an ongoing process throughout our lives. My children moved from infants with a limited range of sight and expectations to children with teeth who could sit upright independently and enjoy a broader view of the landscape. This became my metaphorical explanation of life’s cyclical journey. It reinforced for me that a grown could experience meaningful changes in their lives in a period of six months.
I watched my kids intently every day during the first six months to see what might change. I anticipated their first words and any signs of independent living. I wanted to see development. I believed that growth was a good and necessary thing. On the other hand, I have allowed time to pass in my own life and said something like, “Where did the last six months go?” How did I, as an adult, with so much “wisdom” and “life experience” miss the greater lessons in the developmental moments in front of me? Once again, a few cliches came to mind. I evaluated the meanings of these often quoted life principles in a few six month stints in my life.
“Be a life learner,” resonated with me. I haven’t decided if attainment of life learner status was innate or learned. My parents were educators and their constant message was “learn something new everyday” which was probably why life learner status felt like a part of my DNA. I have come to learn that other folks learn through “the school of hard knocks” which earned them life learner status. However, I didn’t think their life learner status met the spirit of the definition because they lacked the inquisitive childlike nature that seeks out opportunities to accept teaching. I have been told that I am easily entertained like a child. I have also been teased by folks because of my fondness of animated children’s movies. Preachers, in my past, suggested to parishioners that maintaining a youthful spirit and perspective made it easier to hear from the heavens. Those who believed would be led by humility and adjust their behaviors accordingly. Maybe my childlike behaviors solidified me as a life learner.
Just over twenty years ago, I lived “my Kentucky experience.” About six months prior to the start of the experience, I decided to quit a jobs and stay home with my daughter. I quit the job in late January and in June found myself moving to Kentucky in support of a spousal dream although it felt like a less secure situation for me. The next six months brought life changing events, including the acquisition and loss of the job that was the catalyst of the move to Kentucky, an unexpected pregnancy, a medical card, WIC vouchers, and the birth of my second child. On the other side of the six month window, my father died and within the next few months we moved from Kentucky. One day I will publish the rest of the Kentucky experience, but for now, I will summarize the lessons learned.
- Some life lessons are tough and hearing “What don’t kill you makes you stronger” just makes you aggravated.
- Some people kick other people when they are down (and I never wanted to be one of those people).
- Some people rally to support folks who struggle.
- I needed encouragers.
- I grew emotionally and spiritually.
- I developed more when I embraced life as a student.
- Six months with my “back against the wall” pressed with the weight of an eternity.
- Don’t get caught dissecting the development of others and miss your opportunities to learn life lessons.