Why are we doing this?

Today I read an excellent post by John Taylor Gatto, responding to a mom asking How Do I Rekindle Curiosity in My Teenagers?

His answers were spot on, and they should be. As a New York City public school teacher, he helped rekindle the curiosity of countless young people. One thing he said jumped out at me: Before every unit I ever taught as a schoolteacher I took pains to be 14 years old again and ask myself, “Why are we doing this?” 

I’m lucky. My kids at home, both teenagers, are curious and enthusiastic about life, in large part because of the phenomenon Gatto calls “getting lost in work.” They work at things they love to do, and it keeps them happy and curious.

So I read Gatto’s post directed at me. After five plus decades of life, I get tired sometimes. Okay, maybe a lot of the time. I’ve been doing a lot of the same things for a while, including homeschooling. While I see the living embodiment of the answer to the question Why am I doing this? in front of me every day, the fact is my teens are independent. They still need me for long talks, nuts and bolts, and for bouncing ideas around, and I still get great pleasure from those things, but as far as homeschooling, they pretty much do it themselves.

My life is full of rewarding stuff that I do for myself, like singing, writing, and volunteering in the community, but reading Gatto’s post made me want more, and why not? You only live once, and as Gatto says, “…each one of us at some time or other finds himself or herself facing the problem of rekindling enthusiasm…”

Getting lost in work — been there, done that. It’s time for something else. Gatto’s Radical Solution #2 might suffice: physical exile from familiar environments. Hmmm. Sounds like a vacation is in order. I’ll get back to you when I return. In the meantime, stay curious.


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