on learning from everyone

I’ve always had more interests and hobbies than would allow me to be exceptionally good at any one of them. I’ve wondered for a long time why this is the case, and I think there are reasons I still don’t understand, perhaps dealing with a fear of rejection or failure in putting too many eggs in one basket. I have found, however, that the ability to talk to just about anyone is an ability I value and contemplate frequently. The act itself of interacting with others is never consciously algorithmic in the moment, however the way I think about it is.

I’ve landed upon one reason I like quite a lot: the more I know a little about a lot of things, the easier it is to learn more from others. I’m not a finance genius by any stretch, but I made a point a year or two ago to at least get some of the basics down and to try to get a handle on all of the stuff I don’t understand. I’ve found that through my very limited understanding, and the questions that have arisen in my exposure, I’ve been able to learn a lot from folks I know who are passionate about the subject. I’ve found that the vocabulary really does matter.

Another realm in which I’ve tried to gather pieces of the things that matter to others is in travel. Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a friend who had just visited Kansas City. It was delightful to feel as though someone had an appreciation for where I came from. In traveling to different states and a few different countries, I’ve always tried to recognize and remind myself that I know what amounts to nothing about what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone who lives there, but I’ve always had an immense curiosity about others and what their lives have been. In talking to someone who’s from a place I’ve been, it’s so nice to have a little entryway that establishes that I know at least a little about their home.

I suppose there are downsides, too, to having far too many interests. One of them is an odd combination of ambivalence and a constantly overwhelming curiosity that limits any ability to progress in any field in particular. I’ve found recently that computer science may well be the thing to squash that paralysis, which is a wonderful feeling. Another downside is that there are times when I’m trying to learn from others, but will get lost in words or foundational subjects I don’t understand well enough. I have a tendency in conversation to refuse to ask questions about lower-level vocabulary and concepts, even when the message relayed is lost on me because of my lack of understanding. That’s my least favorite feeling; I need to work on my fear of appearing too ignorant (I’m okay with the kind of ignorance that fuels conversations that bring new and interesting perspectives to light).