Yesterday, Sierra picked up a book on the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Though the book was in English, the captions were still in French. She read them anyway.
“Less troys rosettes noter dayme dee paris est lun dess grands chefs dee lah churn-ten.”
Sierra is six, yet here she is, fearlessly hacking through incomplete French sentences as if they were just another set of words she hadn’t yet learned in first grade. To her, she’s simply learning to read, and these are new words. She doesn’t know it’s a new language because every word is part of a new language.
In each new incarnation of my professional career, I’ve been dropped into a new language, and I’ve pushed forward with fervor. When I first tasted call center middle management, I was eager and ready to work. When I became a copywriter, I devoured every resource. Now, in the impossible to contain web industry, I still find myself going off on tangents, assuming I’ll need to know everything about everything.
These early days allow us to work without history. They allow us to do what we think is right, without censorship, because we haven’t yet been proven wrong.
This happens with films and books and music. We launch ourselves into genres without regard to what’s considered “legitimate.” We fall in love with bands like Coldplay and Pearl Jam before we hear the negative reviews and backlash. We take it all in, because it’s all new to us.
Each failure tempers our exploration. We cut back on tasks and narrow our vision. We stop taking chances, because we know what we’re supposed to do.
But maybe we should just keep reading on, regardless of the content, regardless of whether or not it’s within our bounds. Of course we should learn from our mistakes, but maybe we should spend less time trying to prevent them in the first place.
Maybe we should pretend we’re French, even if only for a caption or two.