The Little I Know

Trivial Pursuit was one of my favorite games. I think it was because I knew a little about a lot of things. I still do — like Trivial Pursuit and know a little about a lot of things.

Before the days of the internet and Google Maps, our family had an over-sized world atlas and a full encyclopedia set. I treated both like they were library books — reading them almost cover to cover. On long car trips, I would carefully peruse our United States atlas (a gift from the local bank), studying the names and locations of towns, mountains, rivers, and lakes.

I became fascinated by birds, wildlife, national parks, and the outdoors. I thought I wanted to be a forest ranger.

In high school I wrote my big senior English paper on international terrorism. I thought I wanted to be an FBI agent.

In college, I studied political science and met all of the prerequisites for medical school. Though dramatically different, constitutional law and molecular biology were my two favorite classes. I wrote a significant college research paper about Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) — a Maoist guerrilla group that plagued Peru at the time. I became an Emergency Medical Technician. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, a doctor, or an FBI agent (yep, still).

I was accepted to the University of Kansas Medical School. I spent two years there — enough time to decide I didn’t want to be a doctor 1. An expensive “oops.” I also learned just enough about medicine, ailments, and first aid to be a danger to myself and others.

I went to work for a mutual fund transfer company in Kansas City — at first, serving as a customer service specialist (I answered phones) and then working in the correspondence department, writing letters. I rediscovered my love for writing and truly enjoyed this work.

We moved to Arizona and I took a job with Charles Schwab. I became a stockbroker. I worked an evening shift. I sat in a cubicle and answered phones from angry people. I did not enjoy this. However, one evening I did talk to Buzz Aldrin. He lived in Florida, on Astronaut Way. He was nice.

I went back to school at Arizona State and received my Master’s in Education. I taught science in inner-city Phoenix and my eyes were opened to a world I knew existed but had never seen. It broke my heart. It fascinated me. It helped me develop empathy. I loved it. Since then, I have been a science teacher, a math teacher, a dean of students, an assistant principal, and a principal.

I’ve been to Haiti — many times. I tried to help build a school in a remote village and support educators and students in several areas. I thought I could “fix” things. That was privileged thinking. Even now I cringe about the mistakes I made during my early visits. Perhaps, doing more harm than good. Thank goodness for a good friend to steer me in the right direction and provide patient counseling and education about serving the poor and marginalized. I love Haiti and its people.

Even after serving as a junior high school principal for ten years, I am shocked by how much I don’t know. Every day brings new problems, new challenges, and things I have never seen.

One of these day’s I’ll figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I think I’ve ruled out the FBI, but being a forest ranger is still a possibility.

Regardless of who you are, what you already know, and the season of your life, there is plenty of room to learn and grow.

Life without learning would be boring.

Thank goodness I know so little.

1 Dropping out of medical school is the one decision I have made that haunts me the most. Even now, there are times I wish I would have finished. I probably could have been good at it and done a lot of good with it. Lack of maturity. Lack of focus. Poor timing. Another plan for life.

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