The hard way isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my family it’s known as slinky syndrome. I was that kid that had to see how the slinky worked. Have you ever tried to figure out how a slinky works, it’s not pretty you’ll need another one after you make a mess. But the clue in the mess comes down to curiosity. I believe it’s one of the most important characteristics of a lifelong learner. We are curious, we want to know, we want books around us, we trade in preconceived notions, we start things, and we fail. Himself used to tell me I never had enough input. He used to chant it sometimes when I would be stuck in a book, more input more input. I’m ok with that but books aren’t the only place I learn.
My senior year in high school I was working full time. My classes ended at 11am and I was in work from noon until eight at night. I was a teller at a bank, making good money and after graduation when some were going off to college I was working. It was a different time, a high school diploma meant something more then.
Unfortunately the bank and I parted ways and I found myself on unemployment. Yet another learning experience but I used the time to go to secretarial school through the state. Typing and steno opened up a whole new world for me, I know steno doesn’t exist anymore but it was a life saver. Every secretarial position I took became a treasure trove of new ideas, new business experiences, I became a sponge. The funny thing about a sponge is its capacity is limited it can’t continue to hold it all.
I became practiced at the art of purging. This is yet another characteristic of a lifelong learner. We can let go of stale information, we can embrace technology, we can create new paths, and we can defy convention if only in small ways.
I did eventually go to college inspired by a man I worked with. His name is Rawleigh Tremain and he is that wonderful blend of intelligence, good humor and generosity. Never once with my lack of formal education did he ever make me feel less. He inspired me to want to know what he knew. Several years ago I was able to reconnect with him through the power of technology. He remains on the periphery of my life and I remain ever grateful. I have my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and couldn’t be more proud of having graduated with honors in my forties.
Lately, I’ve been chasing more creative learning. I’ve always known that I am a right brained person but over the years I never found the right combination for a creative life. I think I’m a rare bird that has too much linear thinking combined with lack of bohemian temperament. My talents lie in process and development…duh… the ability to see things that others can’t, the solution being blatantly obvious is a creative talent. Fine but I’ve always wanted to be an artist.
I’ve had my camera for a long time. I’ve been good at it and I’ve gotten tired of it. Finally I put it down when life got in the way. So when life gets in the way I go to plan B. The thing about plan B is if you choose it yourself rather than have it forced on you it’s encouraging, and stimulating, and inspirational. Plan B put me on Stowe Lane, prompted me to begin my blog, I am in learning overload again. I believe creativity has found me. I believe this because my friend David let me know that he was glad I was taking on this project. Project. That is the catch phrase of all those wonderfully creative people out there making their personal form of art. That affirmation will sustain me indefinitely and I am grateful that amazingly creative David bestowed it on me.
I’ve picked up my camera again with the help of Andrea Scher of Super Hero Life and Seth Casteel of Underwater Dogs fame. I am learning from their unconventional approach to life and teaching. My courses are online, shared with others through forums, and left to their generous critiques. There are seminars shared with like-minded people. There are morning coffee and learn sessions at local retailers. All these new ways of learning and connecting are creatively assembled by a battalion of young and fresh and generous minds.
Being a lifelong learner means making education a priority. Lifelong insinuates that it is ongoing, for that you’ve got to be motivated, self-motivated, and you’ve got to use what you learn or purge it. Surround yourself with the tools of learning, books, people, technology, vision, and curiosity. Make it habitual, become addicted to it and share what you’ve learned and the excitement it brings you. With all the new research on brain functioning and longevity the chances are you won’t be alone in your pursuit.
Just an FYI, “a lifelong learner the hard way” is my story in six words. The six word memoir project was launched by Smith Magazine in 2005??, maybe? Not important, what is important is they believe everyone has a story and the six word project has morphed into a phenomenon. I could read them all day, some of them are poignant, some hilarious, some heartbreaking kind of like PostSecret without the post cards but that will be another post for another time.
Check it out, write your own memoir in six words. I guarantee you’ll find it interesting, difficult and enlightening.