I love to learn. While not the most overused sentiment in history, it's probably on the eyeroll-inducing list. Nobody likes a know-it-all, and that's often the perception of someone who goes around declaring an undying passion for acquiring knowledge. It's taken me years to get over that and embrace my addiction to learning, for which my parents deserve equal parts thanks and blame. (They're both know-it-alls, too.)
When I first spoke to them after Vegas -- at about 12:30am local time -- they valiantly tried to ask the requisite travel questions. How was the flight? (Fine.) Are you sure you have everything? (Yes.) Are you hungry? Do you want us to stop somewhere? (Yes. No.) But once those pleasantries were safely out of the way, my father asked his favorite two-parter: How was it? Learn a lot?
I suspect neither of them are conscious of it, but the fact remains that nearly every experience I've ever had has been met with this question. Whether I spent a day at a symposium or summer camp, one or both would ask what I learned. Not if I learned -- that was a given -- but what parts of the day proved edifying (and, it was implied, worthwhile). This emphasis on treating life like a big open classroom has stuck with me over the years, and I'm now able to contain, spongelike, every droplet of experience and turn it into stored information for later use as knowledge, wisdom, or anecdote. Useful, no doubt, and probably the sole trait that prevents boredom from overtaking my life.
So I answered them as best my
tired exhausted brain would allow, which involved a version of, Yes (yawn) Dad, I learned a lot (yawn), and it was an awesome (yawn) experience (double yawn). He took the hint, and I drifted off.
I think I'm finally ready now, as I settle back into the daily workload, inch my way toward my G.G., and return to normal sleep patterns, to give my parents the answer they deserve.
Mom and Dad, I learned more in this past week than in the last year. I observed different kinds of business being conducted by as many personalities as there are facets on a diamond. I watched hordes of people begin to glaze over as they paraded past hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise. Even the security guards appeared unfazed by day three. I talked with designers who are so devoted to their craft that they take a "five minute chat" and turn it into an hour and a half meeting. And some company representatives appeared to care so little, I wondered why they bothered to show up. I watched as some people warmly embraced the next big idea, new generation, novel trends. And some blatantly rejected the presence of women, of youth, and especially youthful women. I was ignored and dismissed by some, but welcomed, encouraged, and treated as a full equal by others. Disorganization was frustratingly rampant at times, and a clear, concise meeting was a refreshing change. I learned that it can be equally difficult to keep my mouth shut as to speak up, and that I should balance a gut feeling with my knowledge of social politics. I learned how fast and how long I can walk in heels in a freezing cold room while hungry, thirsty, sleep-deprived, and stressed... and that I can still function at a reasonably high level while doing all of that because I love it, it excites and drives me, and that I would do this all day, every day if I could.