Gallery of Gratitude—Week #4

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here.

Someone who taught you to be curious

A teacher, pastor, aunt or uncle, an author, a coach. This can be anyone who encouraged you to ask questions and explore. Who showed you how to learn, or directed you to a new source for information. Write a Facebook or blog post or send them a letter and thank them for opening your mind to something new.

I thought this would be a great topic, but to be honest, I’ve struggled with picking someone. I know people can help inspire you to reach for new ideas or encourage you to explore, but I think the fundamental spark of curiosity often comes from within. (I’m curious about whether you agree with me or not. I’d love to hear different viewpoints on that, actually!)

I could write about my pastor Nathan (or his dad, who pastored the church when I started going there). They didn’t want me to take their word for it but to research and study anything I had questions about. I could write about an architecture professor in college, Rod Underwood, who taught us how to explore and create and go in new directions. (I do mention him in my book, but you’ll have to wait until May to read that! Just FYI, he’s the one who thought I should consider majoring in graphic design. He might’ve been onto something.) I could talk about my dad, who helped me learn to see and notice the world around me. Or my design professors, who loved my sketchbooks filled with research and drawings. Or my grandfather, who knew so many things about so many things. He was a radiologist, and a WWII surgeon and major in the Army. He was runner-up to the olympic cross-country team. As an adult, he traveled all around the world. He also loved new technology—before there really was such a thing. He bought one of the earliest IBM PCs, complete with software (in versions 1.0!). I used to spend hours typing on that dark screen—with its plain, pixelated alphabets—filling the screen with Xs and Ox and dots and dashes to make a picture. Why? Simply because I could. And because there was really nothing else I needed to do. (Those were the days…)

And then there was my mom. She read anything she could get her hands on. She took classes in photography and ceramics (and she even tried painting). She studied radiologic technology and then nursing. She volunteered with CASA. She spent a week every summer volunteering at a natural history museum, where they… well, I don’t know exactly what they did. Cleaned old crinoids? Catalogued stuff? I think they mainly laughed and wandered through local antique shops, where she bought me a really awesome gift once. Dad was always considered the creative one, but Mom was really good at helping me with my projects. I used to do a lot of design work for apartment communities, and the writer and I would always develop a theme—horse racing, or Italian villas, or whatever—for the brochure and other items. We always had to name the floor plans according to the themes. I’d call Mom, and an hour later she’d call back with long lists of ideas. I don’t know if Mom is really the one who taught me to be curious, but she certainly facilitated it. I took a correspondence course (back in the olden days before you could do it online) because I was interested in the etymology of words (today my kids call it learning “stems”). She ordered me a silkscreen frame and linoleum blocks to carve. I had books to explore—”regular” ones as well as references like the Physician’s Desk Reference and a whole set of encyclopedias. She bought me calligraphy books and music and lots and lots of organizing and office supplies. She even came up with the idea for me to attend my first writing workshop—and, well, we all know where that led :-).

As I’m thinking about this, I’m realizing how fortunate I have been to have a life filled with people who had a wide variety of interests and who believed in embracing new experiences. I’ve always loved to explore, and to be honest, I don’t know if that was there first and these people reinforced that trait in me, or if I developed that trait because I was exposed to so many things first. Chicken? Egg? It doesn’t really matter. But it reminds me again how important other people have been to my development. Which is the whole reason I started this series, so I suppose today’s post—although it followed a curvy, slow path with no clear sense of direction—actually accomplished all I set out to do. In a weird, random, convoluted sort of way. Which is pretty much how I do anything. Because of the interesting people in my life who also followed unconventional paths. See? It all comes back around.

Thanks for following me down this winding trail today. Now it’s your turn—who pushed you to try something new? Made you curious? Showed you how to explore? Inspired you to learn? Tell me your stories. I’d love to hear them.

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