Being curious keeps you young – ask my mum


Young and curious soul

My cheerful and active 79-year-old mother came to visit me here in Bermuda for the first time. She saw the island, and fell in love with it like a young girl. It was love at first sight — pure, reckless, all-consuming, enthusiastic and happy. The island dazzled her with its beaches full of pink sparkles; the vast ocean with crystal clear, turquoise water; the well-manicured gardens and the proud palms. She liked the white roofs among the lush green foliage, and the traditional houses painted in soft pastels or bright, bold colors. Dreamily, she repeated: “It is like a fairytale. It is divine! It is a joy to live here and enjoy such beauty every moment. Bermudians are so lucky!”

On the second day of my mother’s visit, we had breakfast on the terrace of our house. It was a peaceful and warm morning. The sun on the restless ocean waves shimmered like silver. In the distance, sleek sail boats jousted in preparation for the America’s Cup.

Suddenly, a strong and strict demand came from my mom: “Nina, I need to go to the library immediately! Please take me there, now!” I shook my head in disbelief.

“What? Now? Right this instant?” I was amazed. She didn’t ask to go to the beach, to Crystal Caves or Dockyard, not even to Hamilton or St George’s.

“I want to learn more about Bermuda,” she explained patiently. “I love people. My dream is to share my knowledge and experiences with them. Many of my friends don’t even know about this extraordinary island. They confuse Bermuda with the Bahamas. I will prepare a lecture about it for the Russian community in San Francisco, and write an article for the Russian newspaper.”

This was my mother’s vacation. I had to smile.

Time to explore the Island

I tried to remember when I was in the library the last time. I think of how the word “library” has been replaced with the phrase “Google it”. Mom belongs to the old school. She is one of the generation which receives information primarily from newspapers, reference books, and encyclopedias.

So, we borrowed a lot of books from the library. She began in the mornings and read them attentively and with enormous interest, a few hours each day, constantly taking notes. We traveled to all the sightseeing attractions on the island. In the evenings, we discussed the discovery of Bermuda, its early colonization and the institution of slavery, the first governors of Bermuda, the need to build forts. I had to search on the internet for pictures of the national bird, the cahow. We learned that its name derives from its eerie cries. Then, I had another task: find a video on YouTube so we could hear its call. We read from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. On it went. I was astonished that during this time I learned more about Bermuda than I did in four years of living here.

A week later, my mom wrote a 30-page detailed presentation about Bermuda. “I have to cut it, it is too much information,” she said sadly.

Why can’t I fly like a bird? 

This experience made me think that we should not be afraid of getting older or being old. We should instead be frightened to lose our curiosity, the strong desire and passion to continuously learn, discover something new, and be open for adventures. This sincere and genuine interest in life, the liveliness of perception, the unquenchable thirst for knowledge keeps our inner world always original, fresh and young.

Remember the time when we were little kids? We were eager to learn. We continually bombarded adults with millions of questions: “Why does it rain? Why don’t fish drown? Where does thunder come from? Why can’t I fly like a bird? Why does the sun go down in the evening and come up in the morning? How can ships float on water? Why does the sea rise and fall? How did the beach get all the sand?” We wouldn’t calm down until we received a response.

How does it happen that over time we lose this extraordinary and wonderful quality to learn and be surprised about the world? When does this amazing curiosity leave us?

Do we really think that we have learned all we need to know and have no more questions left? Even when we have questions, sometimes we are too afraid to ask them because we do not want to seem stupid and uneducated. Why do we often say: “My question may sound silly…”

If you are still curious, you have a young soul. And then, people will not pay attention to your wrinkles or care about your age. They will look at your sparkling, young eyes and attentively listen to your fascinating stories about shipwrecks.

Do you still want to know why Admiral George Somers was described by his friends as “a lamb on the land and a lion at sea”?