Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hopping the Fence...

I spent some time with my parents over the holidays. It seems that they're getting nostalgic in their old age. And I'm completely delighted about it. I'm learning things about my folks that I never knew before. One particular story told to me recently made me smile.

My father, who came to Canada from Italy at the age of 11, spent his teen years in a house not far from a local community centre where there was an outdoor swimming pool in the summer and an outdoor skating rink in the winter. Knowing neither how to swim or skate, he would hop the fence late at night, smuggle himself into the pool or rink and teach himself, through much trial and error, how to do both.

All I knew growing up is that I had a father who was fearless. He could skate and swim well (although he never learned to float), as well as any one of the other dads around. I asked him why he didn't just take lessons, why he decided to do his learning incognito.

"Sometimes it's easier to learn when there's no one around," he replied.

And I smiled. I get that. When I left the Jehovah's Witnesses some four years ago now, my then-boyfriend (also an ex-JW) suggested repeatedly that I go to University. The suggestion terrified me. I would cringe every time he brought it up. I cringe now just thinking of it. Bleh.

Let's be clear though, I graduated Grade 13 with a 91% average; I'm no intellectual slouch. But there was, and still is, this desire to do my learning behind closed doors. Why? Because sometimes it is indeed easier to learn when there's no one around. This is the reason I've spent the better part of the past year reading incessantly, pushing my boundaries, questioning my beliefs at every turn and not sharing much of it with you (although I've probably still shared more of the journey with you than most people would...that's my way of facing the I don't want to get it wrong in front of everyone fear).

I needed to hop the fence in the dead of night and teach myself how to swim, as it were. And I'm glad I did. Sometimes you have to listen to the fear in your gut and find your own way through it. And for some of us, that means going underground to gather knowledge rather than shining a light directly on our own ignorance.

By the way, I will share with you "My Year in Books" in an upcoming entry. It's going to take some time to prepare so bear with me. But it's coming. I promise.

In related news, I'm bursting my stay-at-home-and-learn bubble. I have enrolled in two classes this coming new year. One in creative writing and the other in drawing/painting. It's time to bring the penguin out into the world just a little bit more, just enough to give her wings a little breadth but not too much as to send her back to the cave in abject terror. I imagine this penguin will forever do a dance between pushing herself out into the big, scary world and retreating to the safety of the cave. Perhaps this is the dance most people do and it could even be considered a "normal" path to success.

Normal can be good. Who knew?

tall penguin

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