Had someone asked me when I was a teenager back in the 50’s what I was going to be when I grew up, I would probably have said – “Duh, I don’t know!. Truthfully, I cannot remember having any aspirations whatsoever as to what I wanted to do with my life after I got out of high school. I knew that college was not in the cards as I grew up in a family of eight children and money was always rather tight.
Higher learning for us meant that when I was hired at the Italian bakery where I got my first taste of working for a living – I learned how they baked Italian rolls, I learned how to sweep out the garage where they backed the trucks in to load up and several other menial duties around the bakery.
Later, when I joined the Army, we learned how to make hospital corners when making our beds, how to break down an M-14 and put it back together real fast. We learned that you never call your rifle – your gun. It was your weapon or your rifle but never your gun.
After mustering out of the Army and getting a job in a grocery store just to keep food on my table, I learned real fast how to stock shelves which also including remembering how to rotate stock so that the oldest is pulled to the front of the shelves and the newer stock went in the back.
That same store was also a meat market and I learned real fast how to balance a hind quarter on my shoulder so that I wouldn’t drop it when moving it from the abattoir truck to the walk-in refrigerators in the back of the store.
And then there was the time I worked in an upholstery factory and had to learn how to install the arms on stuffed chairs and sofas. When one gets right down to it, most of us are always learning something or another.
Take our homes for instance should the toilet not flush right, many of us learn how to replace the float in the toilet tank. After we were married, we learned how to lay cement blocks, dig a drain field, lay pipe within the drain field, hang dry wall, panel a room, lay a carpet and many other jobs not necessarily because we wanted to but because it was the only way it made sense to get a project done. We couldn’t afford the cost of a contractor so we learned how to do it ourselves.
When life threw me a curve ball and laid me off after the birth of our second son, I got out of blue collar work and became a white collar worker. It was then that I really learned what “learning” was all about and I have been learning ever since. Insurance is a fascinating business and shortly after beginning my career in insurance, I learned that one never stops learning in life as there is always something new to learn.
Eventually I went on to achieve many insurance designations all of which took many hours of hitting the books. As a matter of fact, just one part of a five-part insurance course (which has now grown to eight parts) had me reading a stack of books that must have been two-feet high when stacked up on each other.
Now that I am retired though, my learning has not stopped. When we decided we were bored and wanted to get a part-time job, we learned how to work a cash register, tally the cash drawer at the end of the evening, order supplies for our respective shops and so forth
Also during retirement, I took up teaching some of those courses I mentioned above and let me tell you – sometimes I think or thought that the teacher studies as much as or more than the students do. I say that because even though I was doing the teaching, on several occasions, the students would present me with a question that I had to go back to the books to seek out the answer.
And then there is the learning we do once we are retired. My wife and I took up line dancing many years ago – well she took it up first and then taught me (there is story here about that time in our lives but I will save that for another time). Since then we have become instructors and have to learn new dances to teach so that our students do not get bored. Want to keep an active mind and not worry about Dementia and Alzheimer’s – take up line dancing. You have to keep your wits about you at all times.
Bottom line is that from the time we are born until the time we pass on – if we are lucky, we are constantly in a “learning” mode and believe it or not, continuing our learning is one of the best things we can do for ourselves as we age. The best thing about life is that we never stop learning. Whether we are young or old, we always have someone to learn from.
Until next time!