February 3, 2014


When was a child, Monday was my favorite day of the week.

Every Sunday evening, I would set my clothes for the next morning, check the fridge for provisions, and then crawl into bed with a book. Unlike the night before, I wouldn’t lose myself in my book and stay up until my dad would force me to put it away; on Sunday nights, I was asleep early, wanting to be refreshed for the morning ahead.

I’d wake up on Mondays with a bounce in my step. After brushing my teeth and taking a shower, I’d get dressed — the clothes I had laid out the night before expedited the whole process — and then head to the kitchen to help my grandma make my lunch. Then, breakfast. Then, I waited.

I was always early, so my wait until the school bus arrived was usually spent reviewing my books, my notes (perhaps unsurprisingly, I took notes in class, even in first grade) from the week before.

Mondays were the best day because the school week was starting afresh, and I was inordinately excited.

My zeal for school at that age isn’t surprising. School was a place where I got to go and meet and play with my friends, go and do activities that I couldn’t necessarily do at home because of limited space, resources, economic constraints. School was a change of scenery, a change of perspective — school was a place where everything was different, and I could be different too.

Most of all, however, school was a place where I could learn. I was a voracious reader at a young age, and at home, my mother and father would encourage me to keep learning through my reading and by buying me activity books whenever they could afford them, but at school, learning was the whole point. It wasn’t strange to want to know more, to ask questions that perhaps had no answer. School was a place where exploration and discovery were not just encouraged, but were the markers of success.

At school, I was able to learn things that I didn’t get from the precariously-stacked pile of library books on my night table. I was able to surround myself with people—teachers, students, administrators, volunteers, other parents—who all had different and new ideas, views on the world, and I was able to learn from their perspectives and experiences.

I learned new things every day, but it was on Monday mornings that my excitement for learning piqued.

Over 25 years later, Monday is still my favorite day of the week.

I am blessed, am lucky to have a job that I love. There is no perfect job (and this one is fraught with organizational and structural issues that can be challenging) but every day, I come to work excited to be there and do what I do.

My preparation on Sunday nights isn’t much like what it was when I was younger—I don’t always have the patience or forethought to prepare a lunch or know what I’ll be wearing the next day—but I spring out of bed on Monday mornings (often) with a similar zeal. I may not be going to school, but in many ways, it is the same.

A large part of the reason I love what I do is because I am learning, constantly, every day. I learn about things I had never dreamed of before (electricity distribution systems, healthcare record databases, standardized educational testing, etc.) not just from the reports I read and the research that I do, but from the people, inside and outside this organization, that have all kinds of expertise that I could only aspire to have.

I learn, every day, at work. The week can sometimes feel long when it has been particularly trying, but I still love Mondays.

At the start of every year, I pick a new word that I use to guide me through the 365 days ahead. It is not a resolution, but instead an imperative: that word reminds me to be the best me.

The word for 2014 was obvious: learn.

I am learning every day, but last year, I was reminded just how much I enjoyed structured learning. I signed up for culinary school, took a certificate course in information visualization, and audited a few university civics classes. Already this year, I have taken tango lessons and painting workshops.

We all learn new things, gain new perspectives, every single day, but we don’t always put a wrapper around the things that we have learned and say, this — this is my education.

I don’t go to school on Monday mornings any more, but I’m still learning. This year, in 2014, I’m going to continue to push myself to learn about things that are outside my norm, and remind myself that these things that I learn, disparate and different as they may be, are what make me who I am.