#2 Back to School

It was a harder move for her than for me. We both left our communities behind; still, I would have an instant colleague group with my new job. Her clusters of friends and peers would be 3,000 miles away – along with her industry contacts, her theater connections, her recording partners.

For a while we toddled along, slowly rebuilding our people group. My work was keeping me busy. Her work… not so much. So, she decided to take a leap or two. That included going back to school.

And, man, did she come alive. She found her people in a gaggle of teachers and a cohort of classmates– becoming her lifeblood as she became mama bear/friend/ally/mentor/mentee. After a career spanning a decade or two (being polite here – no need to count), she found studying her instructors to see how the craft was taught to be compelling. The constructs behind what worked fascinated her; she became a scholar extraordinaire.

She also grew in her craft – much by setting aside what she knew, working to forget the tricks that worked in order to discover fresh techniques – giving the “new” time to work (or not). She embraced failure, knowing one can never surpass their limits if they aren’t willing to fall. Every such fall was treated as a victory, a step closer to reaching full potential.

She embraced humility. One month before classes began, she costarred in a play with the people who would become her faculty. And she moved from standing at their side to sitting at their feet. She also focused on her peers, her cohort – taking each scene, class and role as a chance to learn from the young bloods. Why be at school if learning isn’t on the table? Why bother living with eleven other disciples if you aren’t learning as much from them as from the teachers?

And she thrived outside of the academy. She found her theater community, she found her film community, and she found her voice-over community. She did the VO conferences, connecting with her peers across the country. She got that lucrative ongoing ad contract that paid for tuition. She taught a class. She joined an Improv company.

She came alive.

She eventually walked across the stage to accept her diploma. A week after earning her M.F.A., she celebrated her 50th birthday. (So much for being discrete about age…)

And she showed me that we never stop learning. I once wrote a book with the lesson: when you stop learning, you stop growing. She never stops growing.

Thus, we never stop growing. And despite knowing her for almost half her life, we’ve yet to stop learning about each other.

She’s not the same person I married; nor (thankfully) am I the same man she married. This phrasing is often used to cite breakups – which I think misses an important part of unions: if after a quarter of a century, y’all are still the same people – y’all have become stunted. The trick is to grow together.

Which ain’t easy; all my mush should never give you the sense of ease in transit. The likelihood of growing at the same rate is incredibly small. So there are times where she gets it, and I’m clueless. Times when I’m racing ahead – or at least crawling so – while she lags behind. Growth often comes after ground is fallow for a bit; which means every move forward reflects a time devoid of much other than tumbleweeds and faint harmonica echoes. Not easy times by any stretch.

Which I guess is where learning comes in – and becomes the key to growing together. Finding each other a fascinating topic of study; realizing that the deep waters have yet to be charted; allowing that the other may be new again, despite the all-so-human instinct to freeze each other in time. This is how “you aren’t the person I married” can become a revelation of joy, rather than a lament.

She’s not the person I married; she has two-bits of years added to that intriguing, beguiling, artistic, attractive, talented, brilliant, insightful, compassionate, generous, witty, compelling woman who came down the altar. And all she has done is deepen those traits, finding original ways to add to the kaleidoscope of character that makes up her being.

She constantly sends me back to school; and I gotta admit, she is my favorite topic.

{originally posted as part of the countdown to our silver anniversary}

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