A memory crossed my mind earlier today.

Over a year ago, I was at Syracuse University for my final immersion seminar towards my master’s degree in digital communication. We were broken into teams for a debate that would take place in front of the entire seminar based on our learning on AI and legal applications. The opposing sides were allowed to meet to discuss information before the debate would occur in front of several hundred students and faculty.

In my cohort, I am affectionately called the Luddite of the class. I had the least amount of background in anything digital or technical and was often asking for assistance or recommendations of YouTube tutorials. This is a common joke and point, if I can handle/understand a new tech trick, anyone can.

So we met with our opposing teams and began hashing out the pros and cons of a new theoretical AI software. The advantages of it for disaster relief are immense, however, the potential abuses could be catastrophic. We are arguing the abuse potential. Merely spoofing the IP address of a post would be enough to confuse the system, get bots to spoof IP addresses by the thousands and suddenly the system can be causing massive amounts of damage or putting troops in danger. I point out that even I know how to spoof an IP address, it’s not terribly hard. My classmates all look at me and ask, where on earth did you learn how to do that??

I explained I had briefly dated a (legitimate) computer hacker who had shown me. My close friend in class looked at me strangely. “That’s an odd place to learn something.”

I remember very little about the rest of the debate, but that moment stuck with me. We spoke later over beers at happy hour about his comment. He looked at me like I was a bit crazy when I asked him about it. He’s been with his wife over a decade and he knows “jack shit” about her industry and knows for a fact she knows very little about his. Why would they? Their jobs are not what they have in common, it’s not what they talk about, it’s not something they share.

And while in theory, I respect the idea of work and romantic relationships being kept separate, I know in this current day and age, it’s not so easy. Our careers, our jobs are not 9-5 cubicles we can leave behind anymore. We are freelancing, side hustling, holding multiple jobs, keeping ourselves afloat in the gig industry, and also trying to keep passions alive. Some of us are lucky enough to find that in our work. Work is then not only our income but part of us, part of what is important. And we want to share important things with the people we love. We want to understand their passions and have them understand ours, even if they will never share them.

Every single significant ex-something of mine has taught me something. I learned about craft beer, I understand the physics of sound design, I’ve learned about architecture, psychology, art history, music industry, and hockey, and so much more. There are habits I still catch myself doing as learned behavior from exes (such as eating fries first because “you can excuse taking home a leftover burger, but no one wants to be the asshole taking home the cold fries”.)

And more recently, I’ve learned about other cultures and religions. Dating a man who was raised halfway around the world in a different faith has taught me so much about the world, faith, love, and myself. I do not feel as able to settle back into my ordinary life after being exposed to him and the rest of his world. Our story will end due to some of these differences and family disagreements, but I still would not change it. I have learned so much, continue to learn so much.

This I think is the ultimate respect. To value someone so much in your life, that you want to understand their life, their passions, to allow yourself to be taught by someone.

It’s a strange thing as an adult, outside of an educational environment, to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to say, I don’t know this, can you teach me? And then allowing yourself to be taught, to learn, trusting your partner not to judge you or your failed attempts, but to help you learn and push you to grow and broaden your experiences.

Which is really, the ultimate goal of a life partner, someone to love and grow with as you both support each other to broaden your minds and life.

Instead of Tinder, of meeting people in bars, maybe a new strategy to try, walking up to a stranger and saying, that’s really cool what you are doing, can you teach me?


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