Nowadays it is easy to keep in touch with people, sometimes too easy, so much so that it can become overwhelming, but that it is a whole other story. Do you ever find yourself wondering what people you have known in the past are up to now? Those people who you haven't kept the latest address or phone number for, from the time when such detail was necessary, showing my age now! Every now and then I look old friends up on the Internet, this only works if you can remember their name, something which often alludes me. A few weeks ago I traced someone I have thought about often over the years, the only person apart from my husband who I have intentionally shared a house with, that sounds a bit weird doesn't it? Perhaps I should explain that I have had many live in jobs or lived in shared student houses where I had chosen the room rather than my fellow housemates.
We met as we were both looking to move and had not found anyone to share a house with and we got on well, I was a student, she was working, we were the same age. I knew little of her circumstances and often thought it strange that someone so young seemed to have so little support from their parents, she often ran out of money before the end of the month. We lived together for about a year until I had to move out as I was struggling to find a work placement for my college course and ended up moving back to my parents house as I couldn't afford the rent. We stayed in touch for maybe a year or so after that.
When you are growing up, or certainly when I was so I going to assume it is the same for everyone, your experience of the world expands slowly through the years. I knew how I lived with my own family so I assumed that everyone else lived, if not the same, vaguely similar lives. I had of course heard stories in the news and read about how others lived but it is hard to make sense of them when they are beyond your own experience. It was after celebrating my birthday that I discovered first hand how different others lives could be, on that day my parents and younger siblings travelled to be with me, I forget what we did but we spent the day together. After they had gone I found my housemate visibly upset. Her first words to me were, 'No one has ever done that for me' and it all came pouring out, her life at boarding school, separated from parents for most of her life hardly seeing them even in the holidays. I didn't doubt this to be true, she never spoke to her parents on the phone the whole time I lived with her, I have often wondered if they actually knew where she was living. Despite being a long time ago now, I have never forgotten that day, I can still picture us sat on the sofa in our house having that conversation like it was yesterday. In many ways that day was a turning point in my life although I didn't realise it at the time. I had met someone who did not grow up in a loving family unit and was now alone in the world struggling to find a way through it. Thankfully this is no longer the case she is, I have discovered, an academic at a prodigious university.
Learning is an interesting premise, confused too often with teaching they are not one and the same, you cannot teach if your pupil does not want to learn. Experiential learning, learning from experience is something we do constantly. We make discoveries for ourselves rather than reading or hearing about them. We can learn from our mistakes, by reflecting and trying again, remember learning to ride a bike assuming you can of course! If we have no experience of a situation we view it through our own previous experiences, it is hardly surprising therefore that we live in a world full of misunderstanding. I not only learnt, and have continued to, about others' experiences I have also come to adjust my own children's view of the world. I can tell them about things until I am blue in the face but they are not going to understand them fully until they have experienced something similar for themselves. If we want to we are all learning all of the time.
I am debating whether to contact this old friend. As I walked away the last time we met I had a strong sense that she no longer wanted to see me again. It may be that this was a test to find out the strength of our relationship, if so I have spectacularly failed. She may not want any contact from me, I am a reminder of a past she wants to forget, I will never know unless I extend a hand...........
Scuse this bit just claiming my blog, not a shameless bit of self promotion!