5 Unexpected Gifts that Come from Being a Lifelong Learner
My college degree was not what I thought it would be. It didn’t prepare me for life. But what it gave me was this: it taught me how to learn. It made me a lifelong student.
As I age, being a student is more important than ever. I want to learn and grow right up to the very end. Learning fills me with enthusiasm.
The etymology of the word enthusiasm is ethus and it means “to be filled with the spirit.” Don’t we all want to be filled with spirit? The spirit of love, of life, of welcoming, of excitement?
It’s not that I don’t feel the anxiety that age might affect my mental abilities. Names escape me. Car keys are lost. Fear asks if this is the beginning of dementia. Maybe. But more likely not. Most people over 30 can’t remember names.
Learning is one of those things that help us to age well. It keeps our brain agile by giving us challenges and problems to solve. Learning can get us excited about life. Here are some of the many gifts that come with being the perpetual student.
I have grown to trust my creativity through learning. This is the most creative time in my life. My focus is sharper. My determination is greater. I don’t rush through projects but engage in a slow and thoughtful process. I derive pleasure from making things, whether it’s stories or dinner.
Learning something new gives me pause to contemplate information. I’ve been re-watching The Power of Myth on Netflix, and sometimes I become lit by a single idea.
It’s absolutely delicious to take a cup of tea, along with that single idea onto my deck in the early morning, where I sit and reflect upon its meaning. Silent, inner work gives me a strong and loveable sense of self.
Learning enlivens me. It can be like blooming again. Once a month, the university library in my small town holds an event.
Artists, authors or professors present an hour-long program ranging from lectures on Frankenstein to Betty LaDuke, the 80-something artist who derived her inspiration from migrant farm workers.
Feeding a thirst for learning fills me with appreciation for our world and its people. And I never run out of topics for conversations to have with all of my nieces and nephews.
I always meet excitement when I am curious about someone or something. Curiosity is a bridge to relationships and friendships. Learning about what someone else is into and listening to their passion is an invitation to connect. And this can lead to finding common ground. Voila! New friendship.
Learning makes it easier to adapt to our world. I have relationships with Millennials because I want to know what they think about.
I have wonderful, long discussions with one of my nephews because I am fascinated by his world view. Because of my curiosity, he then wants to hear what I think and feel. We love talking with each other and I never feel like life is passing me by. I always have something to contribute.
Lifelong learning keeps our minds open to possibility. Life doesn’t stop because we grow old. Life is enhanced and blooms again when we continue to learn. When you layer a lifetime of experience onto knowledge and contemplate it, you get wisdom.
And wisdom is what the younger generation needs from us. Show ‘em how it’s done – show them what living fully looks like. Knowing how to learn is one of those things that makes me want to say, “I love my life. Thank you.” This is my legacy.
What do you enjoy learning at this time in your life? Have you taken up a new passion or returned to an old one? Please share your precious thoughts with the community.
Stephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.