The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Life Long Learning

Being a lifelong learner is quickly becoming an essential tool in today’s world. The economy has leveled the playing field in many ways. The people that will get ahead or stay ahead are those that can learn new skills and adapt to a changing environment.
I am one of those people that if given the time and money, could go to school forever. I love learning. That is one reason that I love my job. Being in an academic environment gives me opportunities and resources to learn new things. It’s even part of the job. Life-long learning has become part of who I am. Sometimes it’s something simple like looking up a word in the dictionary. Sometimes it’s more complex like buying a sewing machine so I could learn to sew. Sometimes it’s purposeful and sometimes it’s happenstance. Often learning something becomes the impetus for learning something else and I become immersed in a fantastic cycle of self-directed learning.

Toward the end of 2008, I spent a good amount of time learning about environmental issues, sustainability, and peak oil. With Barak Obama’s campaign and subsequent election serving as a catalyst, I have been thinking about change. I’m finding myself in some interesting and challenging places intellectually, and trying to figure out what to do with everything I have been learning. I think about my hopes for change in America, and whether I want to be an active or passive participant in those changes. Those changes will be big changes and are likely to have big impact. But they also happen at a much slower pace. I also think about my personal responsibility to change my behaviors; the smaller changes that are easier to put into play, but don’t have as much impact. But here’s the thing, many of those changes will also have an immediate impact on my health and happiness—driving less means walking more, eating less meat means eating more plants, and using fewer resources in general means having more money for other things. I’m also learning that once you start to make changes, the next step comes into focus, and you start learning whatever you need to learn to make it happen.

I don’t know where my 2009 year of learning will take me ultimately, but I do see some of the paths down which I am beginning to wander. I predict that in 2009, I will be learning skills that my parents and grandparents used in their daily lives. I will be learning how to plug into the local food economy. I will be learning how to create happiness by connecting with people. I will be learning that there is so much to learn that even a lifetime of learning won’t be enough!

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