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.

Photo by nycshooter on iStock


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This past weekend, I noticed a bunch of flags on my street and wondered why since July 4th is still almost a month away. But this morning, I learned that today's Flag Day.


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Well, for someone who likes to decorate for the holidays, I would have thought you would have known all about it.


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I've heard of it, but I never really thought much about it, let alone when it is. I knew it had to do with the American flag, but it surprised me that it has nothing to do with Betsy Ross, which legend has made the first flag, although it seems there's no evidence to support that.


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If you want an interesting "story", read about why the American flag is called Old Glory. Regardless, the American flag, like all flags, communicates a message.


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I know you like to connect odd dots, but only you would see a connection between flags and communications.
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Actual photo of Red's daughter from 2008 when she graduated Pre-K

Color photo taken by Red in 2008, underlying image by 221A on iStock

When I was pregnant with each of my daughters, although four years apart, friends as well as total strangers, would tell me to enjoy every moment because it would all go by in the blink of an eye. Then, once they were born and it seemed like every waking (and even sleeping) moment was about them, every time I heard the phrase "the days are long, but the years are short," I'd roll my eyes, thinking, "Yeah, that's clever, but I doubt it." Well, as I sit here realizing that my youngest daughter has now walked the stage for her high school graduation, I'm feeling that although I didn't totally disbelieve those words of wisdom so many years ago, there's still no getting around the fact they were true.

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