Thirsty Brain

In Praise of Life-Long-Learning

Do you ever have those nightmares where you’re about to sit an important exam and you haven’t revised?

I do. But even those stomach-hollowing anxiety dreams haven’t put me off trying to plump up my ageing grey matter.

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I blame my husband for encouraging me. He’s an entrepreneur and one of the symptoms of this unfortunate condition is that, whenever he starts a new venture, he has to become an expert, fast.

This works for him because he has a thirsty brain. He can soak up huge amounts of information – as long as he offloads the unimportant stuff, like wedding anniversaries and which bins go out when.

I’m more of a plodder, and for the past few years I’ve been studying how to write. Not the forming huge pencil letters on paper type of writing, silly. I learned that ages ago. Writing novels is a whole new set of skills, and it’s even harder than joined-up.

There are endless books about how to write well. There are free websites and, if you have the privilege of time and money to spend, an array of courses you can take.

I’ve found one glorious bonus of courses and retreats is that I have met my tribe. It makes sense that if someone has gone out of their way to be involved in the same learning experience as you, they’ll be your kind of weird, right?

And it follows that the more you learn, the more you practice, the better you’ll get (*crosses fingers, toes and eyes).

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. He may be right, and I do believe I’m getting better at this malarchy with every hour I spend. But even if I never become an expert, or reach my goal of being a published author, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent trying.

And that’s my point. The learning is not only making me more accomplished; it’s giving me hours of stimulation along the way.

Stimulation is important (stop sniggering).

I bet you can all think of a few retired people, some of whom continue to seek out new knowledge, and some who don’t. In my experience, the ones who’ve continued to learn are enjoying life more.

I’ll use my parents as examples:  My father is eighty-five and mother eighty-one. Both have a fondness for learning and a refusal to be left behind because of their age. Lockdown was marginally less debilitating for them because they’re technology savvy, so could shop online and FaceTime family.

My dad interrupted my patronising explanation of Zoom by telling me he had a new Bridge partner – in Japan – and was enjoying travelling across the world by train on YouTube.

‘I bet you always get a window seat.’ I quipped.

‘Better than that.’ he said, ‘I’m driving.’

That put me in my place.

Two of my mother’s hobbies are writing to the papers – she was in the nationals recently – and posting old pictures of my uncle on Facebook to wind him up. Who says technology (or sibling teasing) is the preserve of the young?

I’ve found that now I’m coming out of the long years of rearing small children (which was a steep learning curve in itself) it’s a boon to have something to talk about other than which schools the kids are going to. I’m also sure people would rather hear of my latest discoveries about the history of storytelling than the state of my frozen shoulder (perhaps I’m flattering myself).

Because that’s the next step, isn’t it? Discussing our health, until we discuss our Grandkids and then who was in the obituaries.

I plan to avoid the gloomy slide into becoming a passenger on the next generation’s ride, and the best way I can think of doing that is being a life-long learner.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m doing my best to make it an interesting journey. Just don’t ask me to sit an exam at the end.

(Feature image by Motionstock on Pixabay)

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