Thursday, April 21, 2005

One Best Thing: Learning

Did you know that post-operative patients who administer their own pain medications take less overall than those whose meds are controlled by nurses? Or that a society that views corpses as unhygienic and disgusting very likely manifests a strong fear or avoidance of death and aging? How about this: oceans may help with global warming if they are harnessed as storehouses for carbon dioxide gas emissions. Did you also know that if you wanted to recreate Thoreau’s living arrangement at Walden Pond, you can do so for about the same cost (in today’s dollars), using recycled building materials?

Yeah, I didn’t know either.

I admit I may never use this information (I just did!), but for some reason, I’m tickled to know these and all the other tidbits I learn everyday from the writers I meet. But many things I learn in my work I do use every day. For instance, I’m a much better listener than I used to be - mostly. Last night my partner caught me out. He was trying to explain his feelings while I was busy doing something else. I cut him off, saying I understood. When he got miffed over not being heard, I had to back up and practice what I’ve learned at work: listen till I hear.

But I haven’t just learned relational strategies through my work; I’ve also learned a new approach to life. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Okay, I’m not recovering very fast. Hm, maybe that judgment is just me being perfectionist about my recovery. Oops, tangent. Anyhoo, this year I’ve discovered the value of play in life and work. Now play may sound like an activity, but it’s really an attitude. I’m just now learning that play and playfulness make everything – scholarship, relationship, leadership – everything in our lives and work both more fun and more effective.

I hear skeptics in the room. That’s okay. You may be learning entirely different lessons from your writing center work. But I’ll bet you’re learning. As a library cataloguer, I spent twelve years learning the Dewey Decimal system. I may never again use my knowledge of pain meds and Thoreau’s cottage or even the next gem I learn. But after Dewey, I quiver in anticipation of the next thing, the Best Thing, I’ll learn today.



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