Our first steps: on continuous learning and growing

My 10-month old has started taking her first steps and in addition to being wildly excited about all of this, I also found myself in awe. Well of course I’m biased, she’s brilliant, but she also gave me this opportunity to reflect on learning and growing in general. I mean, how do we learn how to walk? It looks like we do it by falling an incredibly large number of times. She also needed to learn how to let go of things that she could hold on to, in order for her to take her first steps.

At the moment, I confess I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything on my plate – understandable for anyone as we are doing our best during these pandemic times. Nevertheless, if there was any moment that I needed a reminder on resilience, this was it.

This was a clear moment of vicarious resilience. Vicarious resilience is learning from other people’s resilience and see how they respond triumphantly in the face of adversity. One of my heroes at the moment is my little baby toddling around the house. She very often tests herself by wanting to run and then quickly tripping and falling. It doesn’t even take two seconds until she pushes herself off the floor and tries again – all with an eager smile on her face! My other heroes of course include the Notorious RBG, who not only cared for her daughter as she was trying to complete law school, but also cared for her husband at the same time. Gosh I need this inspiration right now as I attempt to complete my thesis! I always hold my ocean heroes close to my heart too, like Sylvia Earle.

My ultimate heroes are my parents. Not only were they there for my first steps, they allowed me to do so knowing that it was okay to fall and try again and that no matter how many times I fell, they would be right there. They helped make me feel brave and courageous to let go and take the first wobbly steps, and that it was okay if I fell down and it hurt. I could come crawling back to the safety of their arms. The fall might hurt, but that’s okay. They’d wipe my tears, give me a really good cuddle, and I would know that I could try again.

Letting go is unknown and hard, the fall might hurt, but when we finally learn how to walk, and then run, the rising is magnificent. The fall is hard yes, but we have those who love us right there. This is just one of the things I hope my daughter will learn through my example. We can do hard things, as Glennon Doyle says.

Tagged in What messes with your head, phd, parent-student, resilience