Experience is the Hardest Kind of Teacher

Everything and everyone has something to teach us in this life, without exception.

“Experience is the hardest kind of teacher.  It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.” — Oscar Wilde

I truly believe that everything and everyone has something to teach us in this life, without exception.

I’ve learned, in earnest, to become aware of how interconnected we all are and how important and life-changing each new moment can be.

We are born innocent and beautiful and ready to explore; I see this first-hand with my own son. The world is open to us to feel into and learn from. New experiences await us at each turn: experiences that shape us, shock us, heal us, inspire us. And then something happens, as we age into our lives, into the machines of society. That wanderlust and sense of wildness and exploration is tamped down. Extinguished. In favor of time-clocks and labels and exams and judgments and approximations of all that we are, by people who know absolutely nothing about us. And we lean into these lives, we become these people, following the crowd to school, to college, to work, into debt, into retirement, and then death. It sounds somber, but this is the norm for many, many lives. And I’m talking about the privileged ones, the ones who’ve got it made and can basically do what they want, if they make up their minds to. Outside of this life of monotony and privilege though, are inspiring individuals who are born into oppression and corruption, abuse and poverty, and manage to rise above circumstance and make huge moves toward changing not just their world, but our entire way of being. They change the way we do Life, while so many trudge through, disgruntled and miserable about having to sit in traffic for a few minutes. I see a big imbalance here.

It’s in our conditioning, our way of life:

  • We go to school and then college because we’re supposed to
  • We settle down into a relationship because we’re expected to
  • We abandon dreams and desires because we must grow up
  • We abandon creative impulse in favor of routine and job security
  • We have children and decide to stop living our own lives and live solely through them

We wake up one day and wonder…what happened?

None of these things are bad, not at all. I loved going to college, it was an awakening to other worlds for me, at the time. Women’s Studies classes helped me to find my voice and lengthy papers put me back in touch with a love for writing and for genealogy. Marriage can be wonderful for many people, and children are a miracle. What I’m talking about though, is the mindless abandonment of Self in the pursuit of these endeavors; these mile-markers of life as we know it.

When we settle too deeply into a new routine, be it schooling or a relationship or a career… and we get too still… we can become stagnant, which can lead to boredom and bitterness. When we cease to gain experiences, we stop learning. We become stuck, we’re no longer moving. Experience is a hard teacher, but a vital one. The key to happiness in any part of our lives is to keep uncovering, evolving, learning, and rediscovering. To stay awake, alive, alert, and adapt when we need to.

And then what happens when we get what we want, only to have the glow wear off?

This can apply to anything, to any desire that we have. And it’s because the achievement closes the adventure of gaining new experiences. When we are on path to a goal, when we are pursuing a passion, we become lit up from within. We become luminous and open to the elements, to every challenge and obstacle in our path, to every magical moment of serendipity and synchronicity. And we are tested, time and again. We get to discover more of who we are and what we’re made of. We become aware and sensitive to much more than ourselves. We…learn. And in that learning, we evolve and grow. When we arrive at our destination and get what we want, we are no longer traveling. Repetitive experiences can soften and become muted, our senses can become dulled again, and we can drift back into that state of disconnected numbness. We can go back to watching our lives, instead of living in them — fiercely, openly, passionately, on purpose. With purpose. 

When my marriage fell apart, a huge piece of my identity fell away.

I knew that there were far worse things that could happen in life, and they do, so I was blessed with that perspective and it kept me moving forward. But even still, the road to rebuilding a sense of Self is wrought with obstacles and boulder-sized tests that smack us hard, in the face. And when we climb over those boulders, or around them… we realize that we’ve learned something invaluable. We get to see how strong we really are. How much we can stand. We get to decide who we really are and what we want out of life. I wouldn’t have fallen so deeply in love with writing again, for example, if life hadn’t taken that turn. I wouldn’t have found new ways of eating and educating myself about real food and natural medicine. I wouldn’t have experienced the awe of authentic spirituality, of inner peace, of intuition and inner guidance. I’ve become a better and more devoted mother and more compassionate human being, in general, despite my life “falling apart.”

It’s rather amazing, looking back, to the days where the ground beneath me felt so shaky that I thought I might just fall through and never return.

Seeking kind eyes in the strangest of places just to be able to keep going. And they were there, make no mistake. They’re everywhere, if you have the eyes to look. And now, knowing so much more of who I am, what I want and need out of life, what I believe and feel…it’s an entirely new way of being that I’m grateful for every day. Everything happens for a reason. A major life change like divorce, is quite a test of faith, resilience, patience, surrender, and self-acceptance. But come through these, with an open mind, and you will learn more about yourself and the journey of life than you’d ever imagine. It’s not easy, but the wisdom gained, the YOU that you get to be, is irreplaceable.

So… if you’ve just come through a huge obstacle, or life change, or you’ve accomplished something great, then feel proud.

Acknowledge that, it’s amazing. Not everyone can and not everyone does. And be sure to rest and replenish, for you’ve got more walking to do. Each adventure should end at the beginning of a new one if we want to continue to learn and absorb and grow, in this life. Choose to always find new experiences and you will never stop learning. After all, that’s why we’re here.

Get out there, live your life, and make mistakes. Keep learning. It’s worth it.

Stacie Hammond

Stacie Hammond is a public reference librarian by day and a writer by night, and enjoys empowering women to live their best, most fulfilling lives. Ana J. Awakens is her first published novel. She keeps a blog and contributes to other lifestyle and inspirational websites, on occasion. She lives on the North Shore of Long Island, New York, and is Mommy to an amazing little boy. She is loving life while busy working on her next project.

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