Yesterday, I met this woman of 74 years of age. I entered the student council office, ready for my briefing to volunteer at the event of the day (Women’s Garden Party in celebration of Women’s Day) and my eyes fell on an aged but content and healthy looking woman sitting on the couch. I assumed she was a relative of a student or perhaps a senior lecturer or something along those lines. My visual estimate pinned her down to be in her sixties. She looked at me and smiled; I reciprocated. What followed was pretty surprising and awe-inspiring (at least to me).
During the briefing, I was told by the coordinator that the woman – whose name I learnt was Lulu – was also an event volunteer and was going to help us set up the event. This piqued my interest and following the briefing, I introduced myself to her. Lulu then informed me that she was 74, studying at the Australian National University just like me, and wanted to help out with the event. She proudly discussed how she was originally from the Philippines and had moved to Australia almost 30 years back. As the day progressed and we carried out tasks by side, we got to talking more and I discovered that this was a woman who was not afraid to take life’s reigns in her own hands. She dabbled in areas that she found interest in, harboured many passions, and ensured she truly lived her life to the fullest, getting the best possible experience that she could.
As she brushed me away when I offered to carry the bags she was transferring from one stall to another, she told me that she saw herself as a “dabbler.” She liked something and went after it without fear of rejection, or failure, or judgement. Most of all, she believed in the motto that one was never too old to learn. She’d had brief stints in painting, engaged in freelance copy editing, had been involved in various university campus activities in her youth and had a beautiful family. Now, with the age of the Digital, she wanted to walk along, she wanted to learn more, and she was genuinely passionate about technology. So, she had taken up a postgraduate course at ANU on Digital Humanities (particularly since Social Sciences was something she had once studied). Not only did she attend all of her classes and complete all of her assignments without needing any ‘motivation’ to pass or fail, because she honestly did not care about her grades or getting a degree or job-hunting afterwards (of course), but that she was studying for the pleasure of learning. It provided her with a sense of accomplishment every time she got great feedback. In fact, she even volunteered to help out at events she was interested in – again for the pleasure of it because there was no ‘CV Building’ required.
In a nutshell, what she told me was very valuable and inspiring. She was not afraid to try new things, she wanted to learn simply for knowledge no matter her age or strength, wanted to contribute to the university and society in any way she could simply for the pleasure of it, and essentially wanted to live life on her terms. More inspiringly, she didn’t yearn to meet her wants, she actually went ahead and made it happen. I parted ways with her after a selfie and a warm smile, her desire to write her own book someday echoing in my ears.
Really, it’s amazing how you come across extraordinary people in your day to day life sometimes, who teach you so much!