You probably don’t remember this now, but there once was a very first time that you ever laid eyes on a toaster. You didn’t think to yourself: “Yawn. Vegemite. Maybe jam”. Nope. What you actually thought was: “Ohmygod! Ohmygod! A machine that you put bread into and it launches out hot and CRUNCHY!” Mind = Blown.
Of course, after marvelling at The Machine for the next couple of breakfasts, you gradually got so used to it that it became simply that old toaster and your youthful brain, ever insatiably craving more info, went on to discover the marvel that is your own doodle (or if you’re a girl, butterflies or pencil cases or whatever). In those days, a trip to the shop on the corner might as well have been a deep space mission to an unexplored galaxy.
Not only were these discoveries monumentally profound in themselves, but each and every one of them hinted at the marvels of the world beyond your horizons of understanding. And, being a kid, you weren’t self-conscious at all about embracing the sheer, massive volume of what you didn’t know. Rather, you looked out at the world with massive, wide and earnest eyes, asked questions and sucked in more and more knowledge. After a while though, just like The Machine became that old toaster, and the trip to the shops became a pain in the ass, all the things around you grew familiar and unremarkable (everything except your own doodle, that is). Moreover, as you got older, the people around you expected you to know more and more too, even actively ridiculing you if you didn’t know. Bam! You’re an adult now and people pay you to know! (You’d better not admit that you’re still in awe of that old toaster.)
So once you’re an expert in all that once-incredible stuff around you (and even in accounting or conveyancing law, as your boss and peers demand you to be) how are you expected to keep that wide-eyed, youthful attitude? Well, most people don’t. They build their lives becoming the all-knowledgeable experts of everything around them. The unknown stuff takes on a more sinister shade. If they don’t know it by now, it’s probably not worth knowing. There’s probably not that much out there that they don’t know by now anyway. It could even be dangerous out there in amongst all that stuff they don’t know. Uh oh – they’ve “grown up”.
But hold on. Believe it or not, there is a place where mind-blowing discoveries still exist. There’s a place where, not only is it OK to admit that you don’t know stuff, but the people around you wont even expect you to know about the simplest things – as fundamentally simple even as how to talk. In fact, these people will probably be really encouraging about showing you this stuff – and they’ll take infinite delight in the way you marvel at stuff that, to them, is as boring as that old toaster. That place is, of course, everywhere on earth that you haven’t been yet. A trip to the shops on the corner becomes a voyage of discovery again. It’s filled with weird, colourful things with squiggly lines instead of what you’d call words – there could be ANYTHING in those packets! New sights and sounds arrest you in the streets and new smells and tastes astound you at every meal time. And what the hell is that thing??? You put dried corn in that side and out comes flat bread at the other end (You’re in Mexico now, and it’s a boring old tortilla mill). And that little intricately decorated doll house in the corner of the room? (You’re in your Japanese friend’s Tokyo flat and it’s a shrine to their ancestors – every house has got one, obviously)
You flounder at meeting people – suddenly you’re learning to make new sounds with your mouth and getting amazing results from the people you’re trying to communicate your intentions to. Good for you – you’re saying your first words all over again! – only now it’s called “learning a new language”, and it’s not merely “something expected of you” – it’s actually amazing and highly valued – it might even help you land that new job. You realise there’s so much out there that you don’t know, and you embrace that fact and run to it, wide-eyed and thirsting for discovery. You’re absorbing new things – you’re developing! Congratulations. You’ve got your youthful drive. You know what? As long as you’re travelling new places and discovering, you’re pretty much a youngster, no matter how many candles on your cake. Just remember that, next time you make yourself some boring old breakfast.