It’s back-to-school season and I’m getting ever so nostalgic. Whenever I duck into the Staples store in my neighborhood, I’m swept up with positive flashbacks from my childhood back-to-school excursions. My mom was wonderfully supportive, always encouraging my love of learning. For this annual rite of passage, we’d go to the local stationery store in town where she allowed me to spend a lot of time carefully selecting brand new supplies for the upcoming school year. I slowly walked through each aisle, mesmerized by the plethora of book covers for all my textbooks, two-pocket folders (those were my favorite) where homework assignments lived, and soft-cover, spiral, lined notebooks, one for each subject. Back at the kitchen table, I’d spend hours carefully decorating the supplies, festooning them with my name in bubble letters (or bubble letters script when I felt emboldened). Once I was finished, I stashed all the new items in my backpack and patiently waited for that first day of school.
Recently, I learned that the teachers used to have a special teacher’s edition of all the textbooks we were assigned. In today’s age of instant answers to any question courtesy of Google, Wikipedia, and AI, a printed Teacher’s Edition is a fascinating concept. This got me considering a thought experiment.
What if you were given the teacher’s edition textbook for your life? In this comprehensive resource, you could find all the answers to each experience, challenge, or decision for your life. Especially in the tender years of childhood when there’s such a strong desire to conform and fit in, it’s easy to see how people would want to be given an instruction manual with all of the answers already delineated. Would you want that ability or do you prefer to learn and grow, stumbling and moving forward along the way?
Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood by looking backward; but it must be lived looking forward.” I believe if I had access to all the answers, it would rob me of a sense of discovery, wonder, and agency to chart my own course and propel my life in a forward trajectory. Looking back on my life thus far, I realize that I’ve grown from all of the choices I’ve made—the ones that turned out precisely as I wanted and the ones that took a different turn. And, speaking of learning, this process doesn’t end when we finish our formal education. Each day, we’re presented with so many opportunities to try new things and to consider looking at experiences from different vantage points. That’s what makes it such a fascinating, never-boring journey. In the words of poet Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”
And don’t worry about getting all the answers right.
I’m sending you strength and love.
Soaringwords is the power to heal.