I said I wanted to be in school till I am 85. My friend asked me if I wanted to be in school or learn till I am 85.
Which was a very good question and made me realize that in fact the two were different. Why did I equate learning with school? And why did they have to go hand-in-hand? I could in fact, and was in fact, learning daily.
Then what made me miss academia? What were the pieces and parts of that experience that I longed for and made me dream of student debt?
It was the click, the “ah ha” moment everyone always talks about. I don’t think life hands you many revelatory bolts of understanding, but if you wade through an article or a puzzle or follow a professor’s path of questioning, it’s awfully close to that addictive feeling.
There is a fear in me, I know for certain, that I may lapse into a state of disinterest or apathy. One where I don’t want to know things, discover things, or feel that I am unable to. That when I’m older I am content in front of some show I hardly care about instead of a new book or David Lynch iteration. That I won’t find the hidden narratives or look for the messaging behind something like broadcast news or People magazine.
How do we prevent that? How do we maintain that academic sense? That constant curiosity? It must be an active exercise. A daily remembrance.
And yet part of me thinks I feel that I need others to know. That I feel as if no one will think me intelligent unless I have the papers to prove it and if I haven’t the papers, someone will snatch me up out of the land of smart people.
It’s silly, to be insecure about such things. I shouldn’t need the validation. Where does the need originate from? Was it the competitive schooling in high school, where all of my friends had such impressive grades that I felt as if I couldn’t possibly be intelligent? Was it college where I felt so inept socially that all I could cling to was my academics?
None of these are anything to cry about, in fact they’re the very environments that made me into the person that I am, the person that I like. They are privileged and lucky.
Nothing feels quite as satisfactory or earned as a paper or a project. Or at least nothing does yet.
And yet maybe the key to that feeling is letting go of the validation and the feedback. Maybe the key is in the doing.
What do you do to keep your brain happy? How do you continue learning?