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Why I will be a Student the rest of my Life
Back to School.....not just for the kiddies
Yesterday I began my program of studies at the Phoenix Museum of Art to be a Docent. I decided to enroll in the program a few months ago and the official start to the eighteen month program was yesterday. Just like the kids getting back in the groove after the summer break, I had my trusty notebook and supplies and off I went to begin my latest journey in education.
Now, back in high school, which was many years ago, I had convinced myself that once out of High School, I was through with Education. I was never a very good student and school for me was mostly something I endured as it was expected of me to go to school and get a High school education and diploma. I grew up in an era where women were still given the option of being homemakers and mothers and not necessarily expected to achieve careers, or even jobs outside of the home.
Sure, lots of women were going to college and seeking higher education and careers, but for me, that was not my wish at the time. I was content to complete high school and then to get married and have children.
However, like so many other people I was divorced after only five years and had two small children that I now was going to have to support. I knew of course that I needed a good job so that we could have a quality life. I had some training in school in Office Occupations, meaning that I learned how to type and take shorthand and overall secretarial skills were taught. I had a few jobs prior to my marriage and one during my short marriage doing clerical work.
One of my first post high school forays into education was taking a course in Medical terminology. I then was able to get a job working as a Medical transcriptionist at my local hospital in their Radiology department. I was very good at my job as I was (and am) a very fast typist. I kept the job for about a year at which time I was given a modest raise in income. The raise put me over the limit to receive financial aid to care for my children both under the age of 5. Without the financial assistance for day care, I calculated that I would spend almost my entire income to pay for somebody to watch my children in order to work! This struck me as ludicrous and so my adventure in higher education really began in earnest.
I left my job and enrolled in a 2 year Nursing program. I was able to go to school and get my license as a Practical nurse and then able to find employment that I could support my family.
What I learned during that first major foray into education was that I loved school! This was a huge epiphany to me as I had scarcely endured high school. I enjoyed English and Choir but other than that, I really found school to be irrelevant. I barely understood science and math, so was very surprised that my studies that focused so much in science became so very enjoyable to me! I actually had a 4.0 GPA and learned that I actually was a good student!
I didn't realize at the time that I had embarked on a lifetime of education, but it would seem that is exactly what I had begun.
The Joy of Learning
If I had been told at age 16 that I would one day love school and that it would become one of the most important endeavors of my life, I would have laughed out loud and denied it! But, that is exactly what happened.
Primary and secondary school focus on the very basics that were determined to be essential education many years ago. As a high school student I just didn't find anything about Math and Science to be relevant, therefore I didn't perform very well at either of them. I loved English as I do now because I like everything to do with language. It made sense to me to learn how to speak and write correctly. I also enjoyed choir as I love singing and it was a more social class for me.
The rest of the curriculum I'm not even sure how I passed as it just went "over my head".
But, as an adult going to school to study something that would eventually become my life's work and the support of my family it became something different.
Now, it was meaningful and reasonable to be studying because it was for a goal to have a career in Nursing. I was thrilled as I felt my mind come to life in a way it never had. I was only in my early twenties, but I felt like it was the first time I'd really loved school! It was so exciting to find myself really digging into the studies at hand and enjoying the challenges they brought. There was nothing about my life prior to these studies that had prepared me for a career in nursing and so I found all of it to be so stimulating.
What I wasn't prepared for, but was delighted with was the enthusiasm and utter joy that higher earning brought to my life! I had always experienced learning as drudgery; something pedantic, required and boring. Here I was just over the moon to be learning new subjects and finding myself so eager to go to classes! It really was one of the happiest times of my life when I look back on it.
I didn't realize at the time that school was going to become such an essential part of my life, but these studies were only the beginning of a lifetime love of education.
Learning equals Stimulation
I worked at my career as a Licensed nurse for about 20 years before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered nurse. I had been encouraged by my late husband to return to school as he felt strongly that I was not working to the fullness of my potential.
I agreed with him in theory; but in practice I was concerned about returning to school and continuing to work. I ultimately found a program that would enable me to continue to work and add school to my free time. It was a lengthier program this way, but could still be done in a reasonable amount of time.
I worked at the program during lunch hours and on days off and I was enjoying the studies. It was all coming back to me how energizing it was to learn new things. This time I was not enrolled in actual classes in a facility, but my studies were online and manuals that I had purchased through the program. I did miss physically being in a school setting; sitting in a lecture with a hundred other fellow students and just being part of the culture of school.
But the most important features of education were still there and still enticed me to continue my studies. I think learning just activated a part of my brain that wasn't otherwise engaged and it filled a void left by my job.
I recall that I was required to take a course in Humanities to fulfill the requirement of my degree. At the time I was resentful that I would be asked to take a course of this type, when my studies were for becoming a Registered Nurse. I felt it redundant and silly to have a nurse who was fluent in studies of art, literature and music as a requirement of my degree!
However, in the eleven years since I graduated with my degree as a Registered Nurse, I am very grateful for that education in Humanities! I can't count the number of times that I will remember something from those studies and be so happy to know it; realizing that I would never have known these things if that course had not been a requirement. The knowledge that the word Libretto refers to the dialogue of an Opera may not save any lives, but it just makes me happy to know it.
This is the part of education that is ephemeral and not concrete that I have come to love! In the course of studying for a specific goal, you might just learn a whole lot of other information unrelated to the goal. But, it is all good information to have! One never knows what life is going to bring and the more you know, the more ready you will be to take it on!
I left nursing after a 30+ year career and moved to another country and began working as a Veterinary technician. While I did not have formal training in this, I did get a lot of training over the course of a few years that I absolutely loved! I learned so much about animals and how to care for their health. I learned even more about working with the population I lived in and how to educate the people about caring for their animals.
When I returned to my own country I became restless for a new adventure. I no longer wanted to work in nursing, and I could not work as a Veterinary tech in my own country without furthering my education.
About this time I became very health conscious and I decided to become a Health Coach. I enrolled again in school and it was to be a one year program. Again, this was all online curriculum and books; no actual school or classroom. However, this program did offer a lot of opportunities to connect with fellow students, which I took full advantage of.
Again, once the process of taking classes was underway I started to feel that excitement and enthusiasm as my weary brain became stimulated with all the new information. It was like waking up after a long sleep to find that there is a whole new reality going on!
That is what education has been to me. Not unlike a 5 hour energy drink, or a hot cup of coffee on a cold day; education is this eye opening, mind jolting experience not to be missed. There is something so exciting about opening a new text book, or listening to a lecture by an admired educator. Each time I've embarked on new studies I find myself thinking "how is it I've survived all this time without this?". I love this feeling of wonder and awe and excitement and enthusiasm to learn something new. It is one of the most joyful experiences of my life!
I have graduated from school and found myself again restless to keep learning. I had gone to my local Art museum about 5 months ago to see an Exhibit of Andy Warhol. There was the nicest woman who was our tour Docent. I enjoyed the exhibit and the docent so very much! I had never gone to a tour at any museum before and art museum's were places I knew of but had only been to infrequently.
After that tour, my mind just started percolating and going overtime with excitement. I recall thinking that "I can do that; I could lead a tour". The next thing I know, there is a little blurb from the Art Museum about an upcoming Docent class. I decided to go to this informational meeting and decided to join the program.
To be a Docent with my local Art Museum one has an 18 month program. I started this journey yesterday. I have a very large text on Art History and a Docent Manual and a schedule.
Where once I learned how to shave a surface on a person for surgical preparation; now I'm learning how to interpret a work of art and then how to share that information with the public. Where once I learned over 100 different dietary theories, now I'm learning about form and composition of a work of art.
The common denominator is that I'm learning! And to me, learning is synonymous with being happy! I find learning to be one of the single biggest joys in my life!
I am so excited to learn these new skills that I'm like that kid in school all over again! I go to sleep thinking about these new concepts and wake up excited that the thoughts are still there!
One thing about this program that I'm going to like is that I will be at the Museum for classes once a week, and more often to follow tours and study the works of art that are there. I really like the ability to sit with other students and learn together with them. While learning online and at a distance is certainly very practical and makes more sense for busy, working people, this ability to actually meet and share the learning experience with fellow students is part of the enthusiasm I have for the learning itself.
The Museum has quickly become a home away from home; a sanctuary of beauty from which to escape the minutiae of daily life and breathe in art, history and beauty.
Find what Lights you up....and go for it!
For me, it has been about finding what lights me up inside and then just going for it! First it was nursing that lit me up; even though at the time it was more about education as a means to an end, than the subject matter itself that brought me to it.
Then there was the hands on learning of being a Veterinary technician. I loved learning how to apply skills I had and how to adapt them to animal care versus human care.
The Health Coaching training was like learning how to live a healthy life! Whether or not I ever work a day as a Health coach, the education was worth every penny as it helped me transform my life and create a healthier, happier existence.
And, now I am studying Art and how to help other people appreciate Art. My hope is that this is an area of study that I can follow throughout the remainder of my life. I feel that once I'm a Docent, there will be even more for me to learn. I don't want the learning to ever stop!
It's no longer about graduation, a degree or some sort of completion. For me, Education has become fundamentally important for it's own sake. Not just to expand my knowledge, which is of course very important; but to expand my mind and awaken it! I find that I get bored and restless unless I'm stimulating my mind. What better way to find stimulation than education?
I know that education can be costly and time consuming and thus, not all people will feel that they have the means to pursue it. And, not everybody will be interested in furthering education indefinitely.
But, life itself is very informative if we are paying attention. There are so many ways to expand one's learning without ever leaving the house or spending a penny! There are free videos on You Tube that teach everything from painting watercolor flowers, to rebuilding the engine to your car! One can find whatever it is that lights them up, or gets them excited and study it!
For me, I'm going to make a point of learning something new until I die. My mind will thank me for being stimulated, and I will always be challenging myself which is essential to a positive life experience. I'm not certain what else I might find to study, but I am certain that I'll keep finding new things to interest me and keep me excited.
What lights you up? Maybe you can take a class in Asian cooking, or learn to crochet? Maybe you'd like to be a CSI and study criminal forensics? The sky is the limit. Even if all you do is read an article, it's a start.
You just might be like me and want to be a Life long student.