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From about seventh grade through junior year of high school, I had a very intense love-hate relationship with school. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school and into college that I was allowed more freedom in selecting the subjects I wanted to learn. Now as a college graduate who is unsure about the likelihood of pursuing graduate school, I have come to really appreciate learning about subjects I am genuinely interested in and enjoy. Today, I’m sharing with you several benefits I’ve noticed since committed myself to being a life longer learner after graduation. At the end of the post, I have listed a few ways you can incorporate life long learning into your life.
You Have More to Contribute
Remember that episode of Friends when Joey buys the ‘V’ book of a set of encyclopedias in an attempt to be able to contribute to intellectual conversations his friends are having? That is a very basic version of what this point is. How many times have you found yourself in a conversation with someone or in a social setting where you vaguely know what the other people are talking about? How many times have you had a conversation with someone you find interesting and/or fun to talk to, but reach a lull because you’re not sure what to say next? Having some fun facts or an interesting story, book, documentary, film, etc. to share is a good way to come to your own aid in those situations. You’ll be surprised by how many people will respond with “I’ve seen/heard/read about that too. Isn’t it interesting that…” and the conversation will progress. The best part in my opinion, is that once you dedicate yourself to being a life long learner the type and amount of information you have to contribute to these scenarios is endless.
You are Exposed to Other Points of View
Throughout college, I took many sociology classes in which we discussed, read about and watched various studies, ethnographies and interviews that shared different people’s opinions on everything from their schooling experiences to their racial identity. As an adult, I have found that having this information under my belt has given me the confidence to ask people in conversation more about their experiences and opinions. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend heading to your local library and asking a librarian. It sounds elementary, I know, but librarians are incredibly knowledgeable and will be able to point you in the right direction. If that makes you uneasy try one of these: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Color of Water by James McBride, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris or The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
Check out my profile on Goodreads for more book recommendations.
In addition to being more well-read, you now have an idea of someone else’s experiences (whether they be true stories or the stories of a fictional character). I encourage you to then talk to people about these books and use them as a seg-way to ask about their own experiences. Have they read the book? What was their schooling experience like? Did they like school? Where did they grow up? Why did you leave/stay where you grew up? As a life longer learner, it’s important to expose yourself not solely to new texts, films, etc. but to new people with different opinions.
(More on the blog: Why It is Important to Read)
You Can Fuel the Fire of Your Passions
One of my biggest pet peeves about the curriculum growing up was that it was not made to tailor to students’ individual interests and curiosities. When I got to college, I had so much freedom to chose a major, minors and other general education credits, I let my curiosity run wild. As an adult life long learner, you are more able to tailor your educational information to fuel your passions. For example, I really love food – cooking it, eating it, learning about it, you name it. One of the ways I’ve continued to expand my knowledge in this area is by reading different books on food, food ethics and the food culture in America and elsewhere. If you’re into meditation, wood carving, knitting, paleontology, whatever, there are books, podcasts, magazines, experts, lectures and a whole bunch of other ways to get your hands on more information to deepen your understanding of a particular subject.
Set your curiosity free.
You Develop a New Found Sense of Appreciation
Knowledge is powerful. It can empower change, fuel new beginnings, start revolutions and bring you back home. I’ve found that through all of this self-directed education acquired this last year, I have become more appreciative. I am grateful for where I am in my life; I am appreciative for being able to guide myself on a continuously evolving educational journey; I am thankful for a memory that allows me to share this information with others. It sounds cheesy, I know (I’m not judging if you rolled your eyes). Nevertheless, it’s true.
There’s something about being equipped with new information (even if it’s upsetting information) that makes you step back and appreciate the positive things. It’s in this appreciation that you may feel called to do something. For example, let’s say you’ve learned about how devastating the palm oil industry is on the environment (true story, watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary called Before the Flood – it touches on this briefly) and you appreciate having this information because you are now empowered to speak up against it. See what I mean? New, deepened information can start a chain reaction that can lead to something positive.
Where Do I Start?
Below I have listed a few different ways you can start your journey as a life long learner. This is by no means an extensive list – if you have other suggestions, please leave them down below in the comments for other readers to see!
- Educational podcasts – Some of my favorites are: Stuff You Should Know, the Hidden Brain – check out my full list here
- Non-fiction books – Some of my favorites: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin; Legend by Eric Blehm; Stiff by Mary Roach (Amazon.com – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices)
- Online Certifications (Google offers many for their services – Adsense, Analytics, etc.)
- Online Courses (Many accredited universities offer courses for credit online for a fee or free. There are other services online that can teach you specific skills as well)
What is your favorite part about being a life longer learner?