It’s back to school season, and my mind can’t help but wander off to the years I readied my own kids to start the new school year. As old as I am, it’s not hard for me to remember walking into a new classroom the first day of school, checking out the kids, teacher, and classroom and wondering what the new year would hold.
I was blessed to be raised by parents who stressed education… but not always in a formal sense. Although I went to college, I was encouraged from a young age to expand my learning not only vertically but horizontally as well by progressing scholastically through many diverse classes. My mom also encouraged me to sign up for as many after school programs as I reasonably could handle. During the summer she’d sign me up at our local Community Recreation Center and local library for anything free. (My mom was big on all the amazing free opportunities our community offered and I still do too!) My summers were way fuller than the school year when it came to experiencing new things. Hula, ballet, art, pottery, weaving, sewing, theatre, swimming, surfing, book club, language classes, piano, ukulele and guitar are just a few of the fun opportunities offered where I grew up — and I did them all. Some of those introductions stuck, and I still do them over 50 years later. Others did not. But regardless, they opened my eyes to the wonders of education and the fun of learning.
Today, I still sign up for every workshop and lecture offered. It doesn’t even matter the subject. I’m just addicted to learning. A few years ago, after doing an art show next to a stained-glass artist, I became fascinated with her work. I had a great show and decided I wanted to own a piece for myself and carefully picked one out. She explained in detail what went into creating it. Well, I was hooked. After hanging the piece up in my home, I straightaway looked up a night class offered at the local college which offered a course and promptly signed up. For 14 weeks I learned to design, cut, solder and complete a lovely piece of stained glass. I loved every single minute of the class. I met new friends and learned way more than I expected as I completed a beautiful work of art. At the end of the class I came to the conclusion that despite the fact that I had an absolute wonderful time, I never ever wanted to make another piece of stained glass again! Did I regret taking the class and “wasting my time?” Heavens, no. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. And every time I look at the magnificent piece of art I had purchased, I now have such an overwhelming appreciation for what was involved and the artistry she had executed. I also learned that even though I had fun and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, it’s just not my thing. But absolutely no regrets.
My husband, Al, has a Ph.D. in Speech Pathology and was a college professor for ten years. He was one year away from being a full, tenured professor when he decided it was just not his thing either. Without hesitation or regret, he quit to go into business for himself. Simply put, he changed his mind and followed his heart… towards me! His life has been a wild roller coaster ride ever since. I’d like to think I’m one of the high points. And now “Dr. Toronto” is selling Wonderful Wacky Women paintings on the street corner with me and loves every minute of it. He is also the brains behind the marketing that launched my business into an international brand and handles all the licensing, trademarks and left brained business stuff I don’t want to deal with. I may be Suzy Toronto but it was Al who created the Suzy Toronto brand.
Does Al regret the eight years of school to get a doctorate degree he doesn’t use? Not for a second. He values his education and time teaching as some of the best and formative years of his life. Because he believes that education is not simply the learning and memorizing of facts, but true education is that of teaching the mind to think. It made him who he is and is a vital part of his success in life. And it is part of why I married him. He was obviously very smart, and highly driven.
The point is, education is a springboard to the rest of your life, no matter where it takes you. It gives you the skills and discipline to launch your dreams and follow your heart. It ignites the fire within you and fuels your passions.
I hope I will always be a work in progress and never, ever stop learning.