Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 10, 1444 H
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No learning without mistakes, no success without failure

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“I wants... never get!” That is something my grandfather said to me when I was a kid, looking through shop windows at toys, sweets, and whatever else appeared out of reach, and he suggested I offer something in return, rather than saying, “I want...” all the time. “Life,” he said, “is a bit like trading, giving something, to get something.”

I pondered that for few days, and eventually asked grandma what grandad disliked doing the most. She said, “He doesn’t see so well, so he is always scratching himself when he picks the blackberries growing against the fence.” A couple of days later as we wandered to the Post Office, we lingered outside the bookshop where there was a book I liked. “Grandad,” I asked, “If I pick all the blackberries at home, would you buy me that book?” He looked at me, smiled, and then chuckled to himself as we walked home. He must have told that story a hundred times before he passed away. He got me the book the next day, and though my hands were prickled, scratched, and bleeding all over from the berry picking, grandma got her blackberries, grandad stayed in one piece, and I had my book... and a life lesson.

My later childhood and adolescence were to build upon my 7 year-old’s lesson, as like most of my generation, we had our chores to do at home such as lawn mowing, chopping and stacking wood, filling the coal-bucket, doing dishes, all at home, and in my teens mowing elderly neighbour’s lawns, peeling potatoes at the fish’n’chip shop, opening oysters, selling ice creams at the movie theatre, and delivering newspapers. Later, while I was at secondary school, I would go fishing with Dad, help with the horses, worked in the freezing works (abattoir), and wrote sports articles for the local newspaper.

It was a philosophy that my daughter also embraced, as she had her ‘jobs’ around the house as she grew up, but not too many as we greatly prioritised her education, so homework and study always came first. When she went off to university however, Sasha was pro-active in contributing significantly to her own living, away from home, and education. She worked at MacDonald’s for a while, which she can now label an ‘interesting’ life experience, and worked around her nursing studies, at a care home for the elderly, which she identifies as a ‘compelling’ and ‘compassionate’ experience. She has drawn upon all of those working and learning experiences in her burgeoning specialist medical leadership environment.

I genuinely feel that young people miss out on some of those intricacies of life, the gentle nuances in conversation and interaction that have so much potential to shape their later lives. The ability to interact with a broader community, to question, converse and respond, to understand others, to recognise their unspoken needs, and so much more. Community and social interactions develop situational and relationship awareness that cannot be taught, in fact so little that is imperceptible can be taught, but much of it can be learned. I fear that many young people are not prepared for life. Kept in ‘cotton-wool’ by their culture, their families, and the state, engendering a reluctance to commit to the realities of life in what is an increasingly intense, unforgiving, dispassionate world, one that certainly requires a backbone of steel. I’m sceptical that they identify the difference between growing up and getting older!

I have read, “Hadhih hi alhayat sawa’ ‘ahbabt dhalik ‘am la, falan, tukabir bidun ‘alam, walan tataealam bidun ‘akhta’, walan tanjah dun maerifat alfushal.” Translated, “This is life, whether you like it or not, you will not grow without pain, you will not learn without mistakes, and you will not succeed without knowing failure.” Denying your dislikes, mistakes, and failures is a massive mistake. Don’t just grow older... grow up.

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