To quote Winnie the Pooh | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Jul 21, 2017

A.A. Milne first began to teach life lessons from the setting of the Hundred Acre Woods in the 1920s.

The lasting friendship of Christopher Robin and Pooh (along with Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger) navigates loneliness, sadness, change, disaster (Owl, Pooh and Piglet trapped in Owl’s damaged home after a storm), and even homelessness (Eeyore has no place to live until they build him a home).

Since then, management and self-help gurus have co-opted Pooh’s simple wisdom in everything from "The Tao of Pooh" to "Winnie to the Pooh on Success."

One of Pooh’s most insightful teachings is, “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.” However, it seems wisdom from a teddy bear is easily overlooked. Our days are filled with responsibilities that are subject to deadlines, which are driven by obligations.

Moving from Winnie the Pooh to Harry Potter to “The Great Gatsby” makes the messaging about how to grow up even more confusing. The road to the American dream is often presented to young people as easy-to-follow steps on a list of instructions to adulthood.

Graduate with good grades from high school (check). Get into the right university (check). Pick your major and do well (check). Graduate and get a well-paying job (check). Fall in love and create a family (check). Be happy (check).

However, did we mention that some of the steps are longer than you think? Or how about the red lights along the way? U-turns?

There are at least four navigation apps on my iPhone, and each invariably gives me different routes to the same place, yet we present only one on the conventional road to happiness.

Through a scholarship foundation, I have worked with students wanting to go to college for more than 11 years. My job allows me to attempt to play a small role in each of their journeys. Each of the students I meet is brilliant and unique, has the ability to solve a problem that no one else can, and is able to help someone that I never could.

As they look beyond the norm to see how much they can accomplish, too often their dreams are interrupted or curtailed. One young woman seemed to follow the rules and graduated from a great university and got the right kind of job in a town close to family.

All was by the book, but she was not happy or giving back as she was capable to do. The steps she had taken were not those she chose and did not take her to a place she wanted to be. We found a potential job in a new city, and she created a new path for herself.

I suppose I have learned that the only reliable approach is to look beyond the grades, the job, to the expectations. When we can walk with someone when needed (and to let someone walk with us), we can embrace or overcome the stops along the journey that are not on any list.

At the end of the last original Winnie the Pooh story, Christopher Robin has grown up and is heading off for school. We know that he will not be returning to his teddy bear and other toy friends.

He has finished one chapter of his journey and is moving on to the next, but Pooh is careful to promise he will never forget Christopher Robin.

They leave each other with the most important lesson of all:

“Promise me you will always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”


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