For the last few days my husband has been walking around with really red eyes that make him look like he’s under the influence of something. Today, he woke up and they hurt a little. I’ve been telling him that I think he has a cold in his eyes…a virus. I said it again this morning. For the 1,000th time he informed me that I am not a doctor. I said, “I don’t need to be, I just know.” He then said, “But you have no training,” to which I replied, “I have life experience, that’s my training.”
In order to be eligible to apply for my job, I had to go to college for 7 years full time to earn a degree for a career where I will never earn six digits. I have counseled and given advice to thousands of children and families in my tenure. I have not walked in their shoes, nor do I truly know how they feel, but through experience of working with many, many different personalities with many, many concerns, I can see the behaviors for what they are and reason them out. My advanced degree suggests that I am an expert, but a piece of quality cut paper and hours of sitting and staring at a professor did not make me an expert. Talking, listening and helping people directly, as well as living my own life, makes me an expert.
I had no idea what I was doing when I had my first child. I had never babysat a day in my life, never changed a diaper, never even had a dog. In fact, I didn’t change my daughter’s diaper for the first week of her life thanks to my husband. But then, like everything else, I had to figure it out. Before I knew it, I was an expert at changing diapers, at calming a crying child, at nursing in public without it being awkward (or so I thought) and at loving another human being so much it was beyond quantitative measure.
Eight short years later, I am sure that no one knows my children better than me. No one knows how one day they love broccoli and the next they consider it poison. They don’t know the things that make them consistently belly laugh and where they can always be tickled. They don’t know how they have significant hearing loss when they detect I am speaking to them. They don’t know how manipulative they are and how to read through their lies. They don’t know how sensitive they are and how to touch their compassion. Not like I do. Because of time spent, because of experience with them, when it comes to knowing and parenting my children, I am an expert.
Do I question myself and look to others to confirm what I think is right? Absolutely! Being an expert doesn’t mean we know everything, it just means we know more than most. The more experience we have, the more we learn, the more competent we feel. We always have the answers, sometimes we just need help formulating the questions to know how to answer.
We all started out with a clean slate and retained the information we felt was important for us. Through experience, we all become experts in our own right and our own life. As we experience more, the good and the bad, we retain more information and sort out what we feel benefits us. Even when we feel like we know nothing, we really know everything, we may just not know how to put it into words or are not confident in acknowledging what we do know. When we ask for help or advice, it’s not because we can’t figure it out, but because someone else might know a shortcut that will get us there quicker or more efficiently, or can explain it in a way that puts reality into perspective for us. But we are the truest of experts when it comes to what is ours.
My husband might tell you I am overly confident in expressing what I know. At times, this is true. However, I know my limits. I will never try to fix my car, diagnose a rare disease, or renovate pretty much anything, but I know what I know what it comes to my own craft, experience and life. And when/if he goes to the “doctor” and they tell him it’s a virus, I will not hold back my smile and the annoying, “I told you so.” My expertise earned it.