EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW, I LEARNT FROM A SILLY OLD BEAR

Everyone has a favourite children’s book. A book which their parents would read to them when they were little, which they used when learning to read, and which, as they grew up, they’d read over and over again. For me, that book was Winnie the Pooh.

My version of Winnie the Pooh was one of the big hard cover books with the original sketches. It was before Pooh donned the red t-shirt which Disney gave him, and back when Piglet’s jumpsuit was green (wow, now I’m starting to feel old).

I adored Winnie the Pooh. I memorised the poems, I had Winnie the Pooh character cut-outs on my wall, I dressed as Piglet for my primary school book week and I had Winnie the Pooh themed face towels (okay, so I was a little obsessed). I think the reason I loved Winnie the Pooh so much was because I could relate to Christopher Robin…

As a little girl I was never into dolls. When my friends would be raving about the latest Barbie, I would be content with scraggly old teddy bear Snoozems. Yes, soft toys were my favourite. My collection of soft toys was extensive to say the least, consisting of bears, dogs, seals, dolphins, sheep and many other animals. More than my toys, my soft animals were my friends. I would play with them, speak with them, have adventures on the high seas (on our coincidentally bed-shaped raft) with them. They knew all my secrets, and at least one of them-usually Snoozems-would go wherever I would go, even at the cost of merciless teasing from teenage girls at school camp. Yes, my teddy joined me on sleepovers and camps even in high school… in fact, I still cart Snoozems around the world with me.

So my guess is that my love for soft animals is why I love Winnie the Pooh as a story so much, or maybe it was even vice versa. I can’t be sure of that, but what I can be sure of is that the lessons I learnt from Winnie the Pooh, have been some of the most important and applicable life lessons I have ever learned.

“But what can you learn from a tubby old cubby all stuffed with fluffies?”I hear you scoff.

I’m so glad you did! Let me share with you five of my favourite quotes from A.A. Milne’s classic story.

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

My first year out of high school I moved about 10,500 miles across the world to live in Oxford in the UK, work as an Au Pair, and travel Europe. Always having made friends pretty easily, I was quite idealistic when it came to living in a city without knowing anyone. That was until my first day. Alone in Oxford I realised that without studying, and without a job which involved other people, it would be a little harder than I realised to make friends. This realisation wasn’t helped by the fact that I got lost countless times, got off on the wrong stop on the way home, got locked out of the house and felt utterly miserable and alone and like I had made a stupid decision in moving so far away from home.

That night, I came upon this quote. It could not have come at a better time. I decided that the next day I was going to have a wonderful time. I was going to talk with strangers, I was going to enjoy a pub meal for lunch and see a movie on my own. I did all those things, and in doing so I met someone who I am still friends with to this day. I’ve continued to move around a lot since then, and have used this quote as a bit of a mantra when it comes to meeting people. It’s not always easy, but it’s true – if you want to meet people, you can’t expect them to read your mind and come to introduce themselves, sometimes you have to go out on a limb, be a little vulnerable, and go to them.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

This quote has been one I have turned to on many occasions, and always helps me to feel better. It taught me that it’s all about perspective. I’ve hopped between Australia and England for the last 4 years, and each time there are people I have to say goodbye to: family, friends, colleagues, partners – some of them for a short period of time and some of them indefinitely. For someone who values my friends and human connections so dearly, I can easily get upset thinking about leaving them. This quote always reminds me that rather than having drawn the short straw in having to say goodbye, I am eternally blessed to have such wonderful people in my life who make it so hard.

The things that make me different are the things that make me, Me.

Whilst this kind of sentiment may seem obvious, it’s a pretty tough lesson to learn and, more than that, to believe. There are so many different characters in Winnie the Pooh, and despite their differences, they all manage to get along. They learn to put their differences behind them, and appreciate themselves, and each other, for who they are. I think the world would be a much nicer place if people weren’t ostracised for their sex or gender, sexuality, religion, personality or self-expression. And I think accepting ourselves for our differences and seeing them as something beautiful is the first step.

How do you spell ‘love’?”- Piglet

“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh

This one gets a little philosophical for me… it’s not just about love, it’s about our desire as humans to label everything. Our need to put a name to something to qualify its existence. Whenever I’m feeling a bit too analytical I look at this quote. It helps me realise that sometimes it’s okay to stop to think, and forget to start again. Sometimes it’s okay to just go with the flow. Some things you can’t label, some feelings you can’t name, and love isn’t something you spell – but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.

This quote is from �?The House at Pooh Corner’, after Kanga and Roo had made their debut in the Hundred Acre Wood. I love this quote, and it’s something I think all children-and all people for that matter-should be reminded of. Every person, even if they try and hide it, wants to be loved. Every person desires kindness from others. Unfortunately we can often be a little selfish, forgetting the value of unconditional kindness, and instead offering it only in return for something. It’s a beautiful reminder that we should have kindness as a default – offering it with open arms to all people, from all walks of life, of all shapes and sizes.

These are only five of the wonderful lessons on offer from Winnie the Pooh. Written almost 100 years ago, it’s amazing that the stories are as appropriate today as they were then.

If we all took away some of the lessons that silly old bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood try to teach us, I think the world would be a much happier place. I know my children will be getting my old copy of Winnie the Pooh, and I hope mine aren’t the only ones.

And as for me, while the adventures on the high seas might be over, I realise now that perhaps Snoozems is my Pooh; my friend who, even if I live to be 100, will want to be together even longer – and that’s a friendship I’m eternally grateful for.

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