Always Learning

By Christy Gualtieri

My family and I are lucky to live on a street filled with young children, ranging in ages from newborn to thirteen, and it’s a lot of fun to hang out with quite a few of them on the walks to and from the bus stop on school days.

I’ve particularly enjoyed talking with the kids who are slightly older than my son, because they’re at this great age where they’re learning so much about the world but are so eager to continue to do so.  On the walk home from the stop I’ll ask a few of them if they’ve learned anything fun or exciting that day, but the answer is usually no — not because they haven’t, but because once we’ve walked up two enormous hills to get to our street, they’re pretty exhausted.

I thought it would be fun the other day to come up with a spot of trivia for them to learn on the way home.  As we walked by a car sporting a New Jersey license plate, I inquired of one of the second graders, a particularly adorable little girl with a cute pixie haircut,

“Did you know that New Jersey is known as the Garden State?”

“No,” she answered.  “Are there a lot of garter snakes there?”

“Maybe,” I told her.  “The part of New Jersey where I’m from didn’t have many gardens, to be honest with you.  Just a lot of cities.  But I was born in Florida, and they call that the Sunshine State.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.  There’s a lot of sun there.”

“What’s Pennsylvania called?” One of the kindergarteners asked me.

“The Keystone State.”

“Oh, probably because there are a lot of stones, huh?” Asked the second grader.

“Or maybe a lot of keys!” Replied the Kindergartener.

The girls nearly collapsed from their giggles, and I couldn’t help laughing along.  But it got me thinking about the things I learn from day-to-day, especially in a time in my life when I’m the most far removed from a classroom as I’ve ever been.

What do I learn now? How do I learn it? How can I use this knowledge to make our world a better place?

My husband is a hobbyist, and every year or so he tries his hand at learning a new skill.  It might be stained glass creating, or HAM radio operating, or gardening, but it’s always something that utilizes his brain and piques his interest.

I like to read, and I like to think I’m up-to-speed on current events, such as they are, but it’s hard for me to get through all of that information and figure out what to do with it once I have it.  I start many different books and hobby-type projects, and I do get discouraged.  But then I think of this great quote I read recently, by the astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson:

“Whether or not you can never become great at something, you can always become better at it.”

It’s hard for me to admit, but it’s challenging! It’s not easy trying to shift my brain out of a comfort zone – taking time to learn something new, even if it’s just practicing a skill to reach new levels of “goodness” at it.

If you’re away from a traditional classroom setting right now, or not studying toward gains in higher education, what are you learning? How do you learn? What are some ways we can try to learn something new each day, to expand our little horizons?

Just a few things to think about!

Until next time, be well!

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and children, blogs at, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.