As a kid, I loved the smell of chalkboards and watching my teachers carve knowledge into the walls.

I would count specks of sun-lit dust as they cascaded through the air and wonder what was going on inside each small particle. Then, without hesitation, I would ask.

I grew up in the early 2000s. So, I witnessed first-hand how the classroom setting shifted from chalk and loose leaf to mouse pads and screens. In that time, I saw how easy it became to access knowledge. I didn’t have to rely on Dewey and his decimal system anymore. I could learn anything in the world with the press of a few keyboard buttons.

So I tried cramming as much information into my curly-haired head as I could. Not for good grades or scholarships, simply because I had boundless curiosity and a passion for learning. I think most children do.

As kids, we took in the world with eyes wide open. We had questions, like bees constantly buzzing through our brains and we immediately sought out answers because we weren’t complacent in not knowing. We weren’t afraid to admit we didn’t understand something.

As I grew older, I stopped utilizing the thing I now love the most about myself: my wonder.

I had settled, like the dust on the floor of my elementary school. I still had questions, but, oftentimes, left them alone. I focused, rather, on portraying what I was told an adult should be: smart.

For some reason, we associate “smart” with never needing to ask questions, not needing to learn more than what we already know.

Sequentially, it became a lot more uncomfortable for me to put myself in situations that were difficult to work through. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I didn’t want to admit I didn’t know where each of the 50 states were located or try roller-skating because I would probably fall.

I felt I needed to be an adult and stop asking seemingly silly questions. I felt pressured to know how to always do everything I did correctly. In trying to be this smart, functioning member of society, I let my need to appear intelligent get in the way of learning new things.

I’ve decided that’s ridiculous.

I’ve set out to learn again.

I’ve pushed past the embarrassment of admitting I don’t understand a topic, or I’m not proficient enough at a certain skill. Now I try to learn the things I used to avoid or pretend I knew how to do. I practice geography, attempt to roller-skate and Google what dust is comprised of.

I think that makes me smarter than if I only focused on the knowledge and skills I’ve mastered.

I’ve always been a curious person. I think I was born to be a journalist, or maybe I was born to be a learner and journalism is a career that allows me to do that. Either way, I’m committing myself to pursuing my curiosity. I’m letting go of the insecurities about admitting I don’t understand most things in this world. I’m becoming the life-long learner every one of us can be.

In doing so, I’m finding my way back to that curly-haired kid I used to be, passionate about narrowing the unknown.

It’s been as rewarding as it sounds.

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