By Troy Headrick
Life is like a great meandering stroll through a vast wilderness of ever-changing scenery. Such a long tramp is bound to change us, so it’s highly likely we’ll undergo one transformation after another as we travel.
I was an only child during the earliest stages of my “journey.” I spent the first few years of my life living in a quiet, rural setting where neighbors were few and far between. When I was eight years old, my parents adopted a boy, a young fellow six years my junior. Because the two of us had little in common, we grew apart as we grew up and are now entirely estranged from one another.
My point is that I developed a solitary streak as a child. Such a life, though, helped me become a very independent and self-sustaining young person.
When I went off to university, I began to realize that I needed people. Life was suddenly very busy and challenging. I had to work as much as I could to pay my bills while studying full time. I now had lots of coworkers I had to collaborate with and needed study partners to make sure I did as well as I could academically. My strategy, for the latter, was to pay attention during the first few days of class and then approach those students who said the most insightful things during discussions. I would introduce myself to such classmates, let them know that I had noticed they seemed to be smart and serious, and ask them if they’d like to form a study group.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned while studying with others is that no one of us is in full possession of the full story or the “truth” as pertains to any subject matter. We all have our small view, as if peeking through a peephole. We perceive what bit of the whole we are capable of seeing and no more. But adding one’s partial truth to many others provides a fuller view. The only way of overcoming limitations is through sharing, through listening to what others have to say about things we are interested in knowing more about.
We are all familiar with the John Donne quote “No man is an island.” As we age and life becomes more complex while our energies slowly wane, this becomes more and more true. When I think about the person I am now as opposed to the Troy I was during childhood, I see that my transformation from a solitary loner to one who believes that the best of the individual can only be made manifest in the company of others is a noteworthy change.
Today, my best ideas almost always result from interacting with talented collaborators. Engaging in conversation. Brainstorming with smart people. Debating matters with those who see things differently than I do—all these provide opportunities to stretch myself intellectually and to get a good thinking workout.
I want to finish by thanking all those who partner with me on the many pursuits I’m engaged in. Thanks to the other Pointless Overthinking writers and to those who comment on my writings. Thanks to my team of tutors who help me keep the writing center at college up and running at full speed. Thanks to all of those I team up with and occasionally disagree with. Through you, I find myself. Through you, I become a bigger, better, smarter version of me.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.