Back to school and what we adults can learn from our children


Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional Economic Development

The kids have been back to school for almost a month now: the freedom of summer holidays just a past memory.

Kids are a lot different than adults. Our holidays are usually just a couple weeks long, of which the last couple days are spent dreading our return to work.

Kids love summer holidays, but they also love returning to school. And admittedly some adults love their work and enjoy going to work. So what happened to the rest of us?

We can learn a lot from kids. They live for the moment, they don’t spend a lot of time worrying, they don’t see obstacles, and they seem to enjoy challenges that come their way.

As kids we always enjoy all seasons. We don’t dread the coming of winter. Winter brings cold weather and snow. To a child that means skating, hockey, snowmen, snowballs and Christmas. To an adult it often means dark nights and short days, cold weather, icy roads and snow, often lots of it.

On the whole children do things they enjoy doing. If they are good at a certain sport, they pursue that. If they have musical talent, they play that instrument. If they like judo, or dance or gymnastics, well, they do that.

All that aside, kids still have responsibilities. They still have to go to school, they still have chores and they still have expectations from others they have to fulfill. Regardless, kids seem to have the ability to seek out the positive and find the joy in most things they do. Some adults retain that Pollyanna attitude, others not so much.

I believe the key to keeping that inner child in our lives is to figure out what we love or what our passion is and find a job or a career that fits that bill. I am fortunate to work in a field that still excites me some 20 years later. I haven’t always done economic development and didn’t pursue a career in it. I really just fell into it.

I was working as a freelance writer and a part-time letter carrier. I enjoyed both my jobs but was always interested in new challenges. I was living in the City of Wetaskiwin and they were looking for someone to coordinate their three-day Pioneer Days Festival. I applied and got the position. That year’s Pioneer Days was a success and the City offered me a job as their economic development officer.

After that I took some courses through the University of Waterloo and got my economic development designation. Prior to this, I had no idea what an economic development officer was, but that little stint coordinating a little festival set me off on my career and I haven’t looked back since.

I think I was fortunate that I left my life open to opportunities. It’s like being a kid. Kids don’t have a manual with instructions on how to play every kids game they play. Someone has to ask a kid if they want to play a game of tag, or red rover or hide and seek.

Someone has to explain the rules and then the kids have to give it a shot. It’s the same with sports, or musical instruments or gymnastics. In each case a kid needs to learn the rules and practice. Sure some kids are naturals, but they don’t know that until they give it a shot.

School is a great place for kids to learn this. They learn through the different classes they take. They learn in the playground playing with friends, old and new. And they learn from adults who encourage them to give it a try.

Adults need to keep that sense of learning, adventure and curiosity. Kids teach us that we need to keep learning and engaging in what life presents us. If a kid doesn’t like hockey, or playing the flute or doing gymnastics, they find something new.

Of course we all can’t quit our jobs and pursue our passions. But we can pursue our options and our passions and perhaps they will eventually lead to a new career we love. Perhaps they will lead us to find satisfaction in the work we already do.

The only thing for certain, is kids seem to maintain a sense of wonder in all they do. Perhaps we need to follow their example.

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