What have you learned lately?

20 Aug

school desksWe’re nearing the end of the warm season; that’s right, summer’s almost gone. What did you do? Take any holidays? I was lucky enough to spend a week in beautiful British Columbia where I enjoyed charming cities and looked at the Pacific Ocean every day. I’m going to Montreal next weekend to cap off the season.

One thing I’ve become very aware of is that holidays and hot weather are a good combination to turn us lazy and sloth – not only physically but mentally. It’s easy not to do much on hot, heavy days thick with humidity; this kind of weather can bring about sleepiness, migraines, low energy, and the desire to drink cold beer. Most people agree that it’s okay to let this happen during the summer – it hearkens back to our two months of holidays while we were in school, the two months of bliss that at the time seemed to last forever. Invariably, the beginning of the new school year neared and the pressure to stop having fun and get your nose into a textbook nagged at us. It was depressing and at the same time, exciting.

Like you, I’ve been riding the summer calmness, digging the feeling of relaxed holiday in the air, and not taking much seriously. But a couple of weeks ago, I sensed an unknown stress pressing into my mind. I told a friend about this anxiety and he says he has it too. He thinks it’s because it’s the time of year we’ve been conditioned to associate with work – i.e. school. I think he’s right.

I felt invisible pressure to do something with the autumn looming, but I didn’t know what. Then I received a booklet in the mail from the Toronto District School Board that listed dozens of adult classes that begin in September. I looked through and found many classes that interested me. Yesterday I registered for one and I feel great about it. After a couple of months of working (mostly part time), sweating, loafing, laughing, drinking, and socializing, I’m excited to learn again, to improve myself, to make a commitment to something. To me, it’s like the physical feeling of changing from shapeless sweat pants and t-shirts to fitted, woven clothing.

It’s one thing to take a week or two (or more if you’re lucky) to go away on holidays which chops up the year, but quite another thing to make a commitment to learn something new. I’ve decided that instead of taking a winter holiday in January, I will take another class. Lying on a beach is certainly relaxing, but taking a class is definitely much cheaper (albeit not warmer), and the mental improvements from it will last my lifetime.

Can you imagine who you could be if you made the decision to start learning again?

Learning is fun and a wonderful investment in the mind. It’s also a good way to stop stagnation – let’s face it, as adults it’s very easy to fall into a comfortable rut and to keep on with the tried and true schedule. But this gets boring and boredom can eat away at our minds. Learning is a healthy challenge for us and keeps us humble, but it also means change. Some people are afraid of change, but the thought of it depends on your perspective: when it comes to learning, I think about change as an enhancement, not as anything uncomfortable.

Learning whets the imagination and the intellect and improves confidence; new skills develop and talents emerge. Putting yourself in a new environment to learn with other people is an amazing experience. I can’t wait to take a seat at my school desk on September 9 and let the learning begin!

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

– George Bernard Shaw



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