I have stumbled upon this book through Bill Gates’s recommendation who wrote:
I’ve always prided myself on my ability to teach myself things. Whenever I don’t know a lot about something, I’ll read a textbook or watch an online course until I do.
I thought I was pretty good at teaching myself—until I read Tara Westover’s memoir Educated.
So I had to read it. I didn’t jump into it straight away. It was in my file of books to read until the time has come to pick it up and I strongly recommend you to read it as well.
Even though I don’t know Tara personally, after reading her book I feel I do or perhaps I would like to. She seems to be an incredible person and very likeable too. She doesn’t portrait herself as a remarkable and amazingly well-educated person she is. This is the best memoir I have read and one that is very honest.
I cannot compare my childhood to Tara’s yet I have felt incredibly close to her experiences. I have also worked since I remember (I guess 5/6 years old) helping out my father, who wasn’t soft. I didn’t have a brother but similarities of my father to Shaun are still very tangible in my memory. I was growing up in a Roman Catholic family and I was very devoted to the religion but my family is not fanatical. Also, education was always praised in my home. That would be it though. I don’t ever remember parents spending time with me or being particularly interested in what I am doing. Tara is my personal hero because she has not given up. Education, starting at the age of 17, must have been very difficult not just from the sheer volume of the curriculum she had to catch up with. She also had to go through moral and ideological walls while learning new perspectives. I do remember vividly my awakening where I have started to read books outside the Theological Institute in my home city. I was younger than her, but nonetheless scared.
Passion can get us a long way but we don’t realise how powerful fear is. The biggest of them all is fear of achieving or being worth more than we portrait ourselves to be. It was powerful to read that even with her accomplishments to date, she was struggling with the new world and could not take praise. It felt like me explaining my fears and insecurities to a friend who really could understand me and hearing him saying: ‘I know exactly how you feel’. Tara Westover, third person ever to receive Bill Gates scholarship, said to her tutor at the University of Cambridge:
I would enjoy serving the dinner, more than eating it.
Tara’s humbleness and naivety at times feels really cute, at times annoying. Some could even say it’s made up. I had similar mixed feelings but then looking back at my past I saw myself a lot while reading her memoir and I hated that boy. So immature, so naive and so weak.
It is not just dominion of religion that guards its truths with closed ‘family’. Any constraint ideology works the same way. Such a pathway of thinking and living does not debate counter-arguments, it destroys them. There is no place for a second thought as it could crack the foundations and weaken its structure.
A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain./William James/
To change is to find the weakest link in you and reestablish yourself. I believe this will work with addictions, self-doubt or phobias. It is though incredibly difficult to achieve. Even once you have found the weakest link, to break the chain is nearly impossible.
Tara has accomplished more in 10 years of self-education than many of us will in their lifetime. She is not special or perhaps not even gifted in any unusual way, but consistent and focused. Still though, even for her, not at the beginning of her new world exploration, but during PhD studies, procrastination and anxiety got in the way. She has highlighted how easy is to label yourself lazy, while there is a bigger, hidden problem. I have been struggling from procrastination since my primary days, but anxiety is relatively new to me. Nevertheless, I feel grateful for her sharing this as I thought, naively I guess, you only get it when you are a loser unless it is clinical matter.
The whole book is engaging and truly fascinating, however, there is one sentence that has shaken me and made me think a lot.
Curiosity is a luxury reserved for the financially secure.
We take things for granted but life is not a straight-line race. It’s an obstacle course ultra marathon. Nobody cares if you break a leg, how long it takes you and whether you finish the race or not. The only person that should care is you.
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