“Life is all about evolution. What looks like a mistake to others has been a milestone in my life. Even if people have betrayed me, even if my heart was broken, even if people misunderstood or judged me, I have learned from these incidents. We are human and we make mistakes, but learning from them is what makes the difference.”
Not my words but those of Ameesha Patel, an Indian actress and model who predominantly appears in Bollywood films.
Whilst we celebrate all the achievements of our children at set events, as they journey through school there is a tendency to focus on the successes, the end result. We see the smiles, the proud puffed-out chests and the satisfaction of a job well done. And that is right and correct. It is absolutely right to celebrate – isn’t it? Superficially, yes, but I think to make the celebration more meaningful we need to remember the journey it took to get to those successes. What it means to be awarded a prize for Maths, Drama or Science? Why be recognised for endeavour or achievement? And is this the end of the journey?
I think we can safely say that any educational celebration – at the end of primary, secondary or higher education – is not the end of the journey. Some are still very close to the start, some are much further along the journey, and some of you have reached a milestone. Let’s now ponder on that learning journey. I think that it is fair to say that it is peppered with difficulty and one has to be armed, prepared and supported.
There are potholes, and yes, we will fall down them. Sometimes we might see them coming and side step them but I think I can guarantee that we will fall down more of them that we can avoid. Sometimes, if you fall, it may just be a little stumble that we can pick up from easily, brush ourselves down and hope that we were spared the humiliation of being seen. Or maybe we have had to seek out a friendly hand to help to lift us up and out.
There may be tunnels, some short, where one can see the light at the other side and others may be long. To get through we have to stop, not be scared, feel our way, we must keep looking until our eyes grow accustomed to the dark and we see a way through.
There can even be dragons, we need to fight those, be brave and face them. They look scary and you may want to run away, but face them head on. Dragons are cowards and when tackled with a clear head and reason they shrink and you’ll be able to step over them.
Journeys can make you weary, or you may get bored. When this happens perhaps you need to stop for a while, take a break, rest, play a game, chat with friends. Use this time to dream, to be creative. Imagine the things you could be doing, or to reflect on what you have done. As Einstein once said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’. Then get back on that path. You may find that people are envious of your journey and try to discourage you. These are like those irritating midges that want to bite you – just swat them away, don’t let their lack of ambition make you lose yours. This is your journey, not theirs and what works for them may not be right for you
It may be easy sometimes, a smooth path, you may dawdle. Don’t be complacent, just plodding along the easy route. Skip, jog or jump instead look at whether there is a different way. Just plodding on requires no thought and no growth. This path will not allow you to learn.
You might fall over, get hurt. That’s normal. Think of it as a learning injury. Don’t stay on the ground being despondent, get yourself up, brush yourself down and carry on. Think about what made you stumble and try not to do it again. If you never fell, or were never allowed to fall, you would never learn how to pick yourself up.
What a journey, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. But you know what, we are all on it, just at different points. Sometimes our paths will cross, maybe we will travel together, perhaps we will even race. However, never think you are at the end, or even hope to be at the end of your learning journey. Hopefully the more you travel the more you will realise how far you still need to go and how many routes you can take. Remember to look forward at what you want to achieve, where you want to be. But take time to look back, to admire the view, see where you have been and reflect on all of those lessons learned – they have made you braver, stronger and wiser.