“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
The other night I found myself flicking through channels while waiting for one of the only shows that I watch on TV to come on (The Graham Norton Show, if you are wondering!) I stumbled across an old episode of Room 101 and one of the guests on it was trying to put ‘friends who take up new interests’ into Room 101. The conversation depressed me, and I was so glad that Frank Skinner shot the guest down with his joy of learning new things and how he believed strongly that people should never stop learning.
Yes Frank! Preach it bro!
Yes, I may hugely biased, seen as I’ve spent most of my adult life advocating lifelong learning. And the last two years studying it. I think school has had a hugely negative effect on both our ability to learn and joy that can be found in learning. And we have a culture that tells you that learning is something you only do in a classroom and when you are young.
When I left the church four years ago, I went back to my roots volunteering with Girlguiding, and within a few months was working towards my leadership qualification. I was going to training events, re-learning First Aid, and getting to do all sorts of things I didn’t think I’d ever be doing again. It relit my passion for youth work, and it was truly the awesome young ladies I worked with that inspired me to go back to university. I finally finished an application form and submitted it. I won’t tell you how many application forms I filled out and never quite finished or posted/submitted in the previous 7 years before July 2013.
The Senior Section programme is called ‘Look Wider‘ and encourages the young women to try new things, learn new skills and share what they’ve learned with others. As I signed off their record books I began to realise all the things I loved doing but stopped, or thought I’d go back to but didn’t, or wanted to try but figured it would happen at some point.
Now these days, I’m fully embracing lifelong learning. Last year I finished my Leadership Qualifications and we had a party back in March to celebrate three of us who have volunteered in the same building with two Girlguiding units. Back in the spring, I returned to ballet. Ballet in a lot of ways was my first love. I begged to learn ballet at the age of 3 and loved it. But eventually had to stop as my Mum simply couldn’t afford it. I took books out of the library when I was about 8 to try and teach myself, and it wasn’t until I was 14 that I started properly learning again at the pushing of my Modern Dance teacher. I got my Dad to pay for my lessons, and when I started earning my own money I used that and my pocket money to pay for extra classes. I got my first pointe shoes when I was 15 and my friend’s sister faked a permission slip from my Mum. We hid the pointe shoes at my friend’s house until I could convince my Mum to actually give me permission. I’m terrible at Ballet, but I still love it. I love the hard work. I giggle at our teacher’s commentary as he encourages us to correct our movements and gives us helpful pointers. I don’t mind the pain in my muscles (though running for the bus after class is sure to get me squashed by a vehicle as my jelly legs sink into the tarmac one day soon). I also love languages. My grandparents learned Italian when they retired. My grandfather learned French from someone when he was a teenager. I loved studying French and Spanish at school. And as a kid I tried to learn bits of language anytime we were ‘abroad’. I learned the Greek alphabet, I learned how to count in Turkish, and the fact that my full knowledge of German consists of ‘Apple juice, scoop, ice cream, one, two, please, thank you, chocolate, train, youth hostel’ tells you a little of how I spent most of my time and money the times I have visited Germany.
Learning doesn’t mean having to attend classes. Sure at the moment, I’m going to ballet, German and Italian classes. But I’ve learned a ton through Girlguiding. And I’ve had fun since last Autumn teaching myself the ukulele too. Again, I’m not very good, but I love playing. I have friends that are dressmaking, crocheting, knitting, cooking, surfing, cycling, doing Pilates, Open University courses….all sorts! I love when they share with me what they’ve learned or how they’ve improved a skill.
And honestly, some of the joy is actually with the people I’m meeting doing these things. Oh the places we’ve been! The things we’ve seen! I’m starting to get to know my fellow ballet ladies after a term by name now, and already had some giggles with the folks in my German class. And my Girguiding sisters are such a great bunch. Three of us have spent the last few days getting together our minion costumes to end the Guides’ Minion Mayhem Challenge pack with some fun!
So what do you fancy doing, what to do you want to know? Go out and discover…oh the places you might go!