Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I can't believe that Sawyer's graduated from high school and will be off to college in a few months. It's so bittersweet. Especially as it seems like only yesterday you were bringing me dinner in the hospital the day she was born – it was wedding soup from my favorite Italian restaurant.


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Well, since that has now become one of her favorite restaurants, that is where we should go to celebrate the start of her exciting new journey.


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Exciting is an understatement. As soon as she finished her Zoom session with the orientation team at Belmont University, she came downstairs and talked a mile a minute about all the incredible course offerings, and before I knew it, she opened her laptop and was going through everything with me.


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When she showed it to me, I was impressed by the range of courses available, and it made me want to go back to college. But, I was most impressed by her enthusiasm and commitment to opening herself up to opportunities that she might not have previously considered.


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I know! For years, starting when we taught at KIPP Houston High School, you've told students that college was a step-along-the-way, not a destination. And the perfect opportunity to try new things.


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I also said, "Homework never ends; it just is called 'research' when you get older."


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Yes, although they didn't like hearing that. Most people think that once you walk across the stage to get your diploma, you're done. But I found out the hard way that learning never ends. And it wasn't until I was 40+ years old!


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And, unlike when you were in school and wanted to learn, you initially resisted learning anything new. You created mental roadblocks and were your own worst enemy.


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Fine. I didn't think I could "do" personal finance until you made me try. And although I may not like doing it, it was truly a life lesson. And not just for me, but for Natasha and Sawyer, as I was able to share what I learned with them.


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You may not have proactively wanted to become a lifelong learner, but sometimes you have no choice. For example, when you resigned yourself to get over your resistance to technology. And, FYI, "learning to adapt" is a great skill to have.


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I'm not sure I'd call it a skill so much as the fear of you giving me grief for not "getting over it". Like a few weeks ago, when I was on my iPad and "fell off" of our Zoom business meeting. I just wanted to let you continue and update me later rather than figure out how to rejoin the meeting on my computer, but I knew that wasn't an option.


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You figured it out, and quicker than I expected. Zoom meetings are an excellent example of how the pandemic has forced people to learn new things. Research shows that people who are adaptable, who are willing to learn new things, who embrace change are ultimately the most successful.


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I don't know if you're talking personally, or in the workplace, or both, but I've never thought of "being adaptable" as a skill. But it makes sense since none of us knows what the future will look like. After all, if someone had told me when Natasha was born that one day, I'd be on a video "phone call" with her on another continent using a computer I could hold in my hand, I'd have thought they were crazy – not only about the technology but about my ability to use the technology.


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Exactly. School can only teach you what is known at the time. After that, you are on your own. Although I find it ironic that educators stress the need to develop lifelong learners, yet the education "system" still does things the way they have always been done. Sounds like, "Do as I say – not what I do." Regardless, I believe a critical part of learning comes from trying new things, taking chances, and even failing, as long as you learn from your mistakes.


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As a mom, letting your children "fail" goes against your instincts to protect them, although conceptually, I understand that sometimes that's the only way to learn. Plus, as much as I'd like to tell them what to do, if I do, they'll never learn to make their own decisions. I know I'll miss Sawyer a lot when she goes off to college, just as I did when Natasha moved abroad. But I also know that she'll be learning more than what's taught in the classroom as she'll be learning how to live away from home.


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Yes, there are many things to be learned from living life … they are called "life lessons" for a reason. But, like learning anything else new, you need to be open to the concept.


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Easier said than done! Unlike you, who approaches everything with a positive mindset and a love of learning, us "mere mortals" find that learning new things isn't always easy and can be uncomfortable.


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That is where you have to find the right motivation – whether it is to improve aspects of your personal life, advance your career, or just make life more interesting without necessarily having a specific objective.


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That's how Sawyer's approaching her academic "life" at college – open to learning new things and going in new directions. Unfortunately, that's something that often gets lost or put to the side once we leave school. Unless we're forced into it.


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Whether proactive or reactive, it does not change the fact that you are never too young or too old to be a lifelong learner.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Well, it’s our first column of the year. A new beginning. Any “new” ideas for topics? Something other than New Year’s resolutions.


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Is there a reason you do not want to talk about resolutions?


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Obviously, yours was not to ask fewer questions.


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That will never happen, but you are avoiding the question. Why?


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Because every year, I have a long list of things I want to do, and I start strong, but within a few months, I fall back into old habits. Sometimes it only takes weeks. It’s frustrating and disappointing.


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Next question. What is the opposite of “old?"
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December’s so festive and full of magic, but it’s also about appreciating family and friends and those lives we’ve been lucky enough to be a part of and, hopefully, touched in a positive way. Which is something we often pay lip service to, because as much as we truly believe it, life has a way of going by in a blur, and before you know it, another year comes to an end.

This seemingly obvious observation became more than just words a few short, or so it seems, weeks ago when Black and I lost our mom. She had lived a full 94 years, but when the time came, it came quicker than expected, which was a blessing for her but difficult for those she left behind. And while Black and I each had a very different relationship with our mom, it has been a challenging time in many ways.

Luckily, the business side of Red & Black could be put “on hold” and Black posted (on our behalf),

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As we welcome 2022 … we wish a happy and healthy New Year to you!