Sometimes, depending on someone’s culture or upbringing, curiosity can take on a negative meaning, such as being intrusive. It can also, however, be seen as a positive trait, meaning awareness, observance or seeking new information.
With all the advice out there for women on “how to be attractive/happy/successful,” curiosity may sometimes be an undervalued asset.
Look at your grandkids or younger relatives. The world is all new to them. They seem to notice anything and everything – and aren’t shy about piping up with those endless “What’s that?” or “Why?” questions.
Sometimes, because they haven’t developed a social filter, or a sense of safety, the questions or explorations can get squashed as they become socialized.
So, when people grow up, they may recall how they felt discouraged in having their natural inquiries encouraged.
There’s a reason a financial advisor will ask, “Do you have any questions?” when helping a client build her financial portfolio. No one is expected to know all the complexities of any issue, but many of us are too embarrassed to admit to a lack of information. Often being shamed as a child for asking “stupid questions,” or about “things we don’t talk about” can leave a painful, lasting mark.
Ever felt like you’re stuck in a rut, but can’t see a way out? Or know someone whose response is, “I dunno, whatever,” when you ask her if she’d like to do something different? Ever heard someone say, “I’m really not that smart”? The mind can feel like a trap at times like this.
It can begin with the belief that an idea is possible. In the 1983 film, Educating Rita, a hairdresser/housewife dares to consider that studying classical literature could make an improvement in how she felt about her options – and herself.
Changes indeed did occur and the movie showed how those in Rita’s life responded to her personal growth.
Would you like to be able to have more fun with your grandkids? Be able to strike up conversations more easily? Feel more confident in appointments with your doctor or banker? Feel more informed about the world, especially in the strange time we’re living in?
The world is a vast storehouse of experiences – off the internet as well as on. There’s no deadline in this free-form exploration. And you don’t have to enroll in school – unless, of course, that would be a dream of yours!
If you have grandkids, or acquaintances in the younger generation, use them as consultants. I’ve had teens and 20-somethings tell me proudly how they schooled their elders on new technology, pop culture, or their ideas for the future of the country.
It can be a great relationship-builder, too! More than in earlier generations, girls today are being actively encouraged to excel in subjects like math and science, and their self-confidence can be inspirational – including with us Boomers.
Get back in touch with your “inner curious child.” When you read or watch the news, whether it’s a political or human interest story, be open to whatever questions might come up for you, without judging them.
Do what the late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury did, and carry a small notebook and pen around to jot ideas and questions down as they occur to you. If something in your world catches your attention, pay attention to it, no matter how trivial you think it might seem in the moment.
Besides hard-copy or online books, don’t miss flyers, or free magazines available in libraries or outside grocery stores. You might not agree with a lot you see, but you might also come across something that sparks an “Oh, wow!” reaction.
Consider trying something new – however small. It could be trying a new recipe, attending a talk at the library on an interesting subject, or taking part in a community event. For an example, take a look at my blog post “Trying Something New.”
Know that it’s a process. Curiosity that’s been long-buried, for whatever reason, is like an old acquaintance. It may take time to rebuild the relationship. But, with patience and loving effort, it can flourish. As sixty-somethings, how many of us can remember to Petula Clark’s song “Round Every Corner?”
Have any of you had interests that you felt you couldn’t pursue? Did you regret not being able to go after them with all of your energy? Were you ever able to pick them up again, and, if so, how did you manage to do so? Do you agree that curiosity is essential to getting the most from life after 60? Please join the conversation.