Uncommon Experiences

Curiosity and Its Importance in my Childhood

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
― Plutarch

 

If you’re a part of generation Y as I am, I’m sure you’ve heard throughout your life from your parents that you can do whatever you want in life. They lived through some of the most prosperous economic times and their optimism shined through in their choice of parenting style.

Because I love him, I like to talk to my dad on the phone every once in a while to catch up and just bullshit about whatever comes to mind. He is on disability so he spends way too much time watching TV. Luckily, his favorite channels include Discovery, PBS, History, Science, and similar. (I don’t know much about television channels)  He has a very inquisitive mind and gets excited about how things work and how things really happened. I tend to learn a lot when I talk to him.

The other day, however, I got a story about his day. He has been having problems with his furnace and, with winter looming, wants to get the problem taken care of. Naturally, he called one of the local HVAC spots and they sent someone out.

Have you ever been on the phone with a parent or relative and have a very hard time getting off the phone? You stop contributing as much to the conversation and try to use planned gaps of silence in a strategic way in order to shift the conversation to its closing stages. Well, my dad is one of those people that no matter what, you basically have to explicitly say “Hey, I really have to hang up I have to do x,y,z and would love to talk more but we will pick this up some other time.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I mean my dad loves to talk and can talk for hours.

While the HVAC tech was working on the furnace, they got to talking and eventually, the conversation involved me. My dad told him about how he taught me how to wire outlets, install appliances, light fixtures, windows, change brakes and the oil on vehicles, among many, many other things, when I was just a little kid. And I mean little. The first memory I have, personally, of me doing some type of work like that dates back to somewhere around 4 years old. I started kindergarten that year

I started kindergarten that year. Most kids just learned to talk, I was wiring outlets and hanging ceiling fans.

The guy stared in disbelief as my dad told him the story. He couldn’t believe that he had done that with me. My dad has since told that to many different people, and so have I. Anytime I wanted to learn how to do something, my dad gave me a chance to do just that. I’ve gotten so many responses along the lines of “Wow, anytime I wanted to do something like that I usually just got told, You’re too young, maybe next time or just had to hold the flashlight.” I didn’t have many “hold the flashlight” experiences.

I had a family friend that lived about 4 miles away, as the bird flies, through the woods. I would spend hours in the woods as a kid, exploring, building dams out of sticks and stones and mud, building forts, having snowball fights or climbing trees. As I ventured further and further, I got an excellent feel for the lay of the land and, even to this day over a decade later, I could walk you through as if it were yesterday. I begged for what seemed like forever for him to let me trek from my friend’s house to my house with my friend. I was about 8 or 9 at the time. Eventually, he gave in and I did. I had to carry a walkie-talkie with me the whole time, but it was a blast.

I learned a lot growing up. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I were as sheltered as so many children are today, or as so many of my peers were then. We didn’t have much growing up, but what we did have we certainly made the most of. We had woods that stretched for miles with intersecting streams and ponds throughout. We had hills we could build forts into and trees we could climb. I had an Amish family that lived 2 houses up from me with which I spent a good bit of time. I even rode in the buggy quite a few times and my friends would get a kick out of it when I would take them along.

That same curiosity has allowed me to have experiences that most people never will. I’m not talking about those “high-life” experiences like flying in private jets or skiing the alps, I’m talking about those less coveted but just as memorable ones. I’ve gotten into a lot of deep conversations with close friends and nearly complete strangers, this would not have been possible had I not had a wealth of experience in order to relate to them. I’ve had complete strangers promise me to call my parents and thank them for raising such a good guy (I wouldn’t make something like that up).

I’ve had complete strangers promise me to call my parents and thank them for raising such a good guy (I wouldn’t make something like that up). My dad has made a lot of mistakes in his life, but there are important lessons he’s taught me that will stay with me until the day I die. I don’t see myself having children, though that may change at some point down the road, so I will do my best to share the knowledge and small bit of wisdom I’ve collected during my short life thus far.

One nugget is this: if you have kids now or plan on having them in the future, don’t sell them short. Life has a lot to offer and just because the majority of people wait until a certain age to do many things doesn’t mean that’s the best route. I had the privilege of making many of my own choices at a very young age and with that autonomy, I learned a great deal about myself long before many of my peers. It has allowed me to stand out in a world full of individuals trying their best to fit in.

 

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