Whenever someone says to me, “You learn something new every day,” I always reply, “If it’s a good day.” Learning something new always makes it a good day for me. Learning is not just for schoolchildren anymore. Anyone can learn, and everyone should.
I’m not talking about those ads for career building through adult education, though they’re inspiring and some of them may even be legitimate. If that’s the kind of learning you need/want, I say go for it!
My husband went back to school (at an age I’m not allowed to mention) to get a B.A. to supplement the A.A. he received during his earlier college years. In addition to his required courses like psychology, he had fun with some other classes, including geology, which provided fodder for jokes like “take it for granite” and “isn’t that gneiss?”
The internet is a great place for learning. In addition to getting a degree online, you can simply take courses on subjects that you find interesting. Go to oedb.org to get an idea of the courses from respected universities that are available. Study modern poetry at Yale. Explore world history at Princeton. Dive into elder care at Johns Hopkins. Even learn about ethics at Oxford. Best of all, these classes are free!
If those sound too daunting for you, consider learning just for fun. Fun learning – either having fun learning (which I and a lot of my friends do) or learning to do something fun – is a great, valuable, and occasionally remunerative activity, if you get really good at something you picked up as a hobby.
School districts, art museums, and even craft stores have evening classes for adults who want to dabble in a new form of self-expression. I’ve availed myself of these several times, although I sometimes have had to drop out because of time pressures. When I was a teen, I took a class in ceramics. I still have the glossy, dark green Christmas tree lit from inside by a light bulb. I understand now that they sell on ebay for, if not big, at least more bucks than I put into it. The small blue-and-yellow candy dish I made has made it through assorted moves and upheavals as well. I’ve also taken pencil drawing and conversational Italian, where I learned mainly how similar Italian is to French and, especially, Spanish.
And if you don’t want to study something academic or creative, you can still learn lots just by exploring the web. What does “yeet” mean? The Urban Dictionary will tell you that, as well as a lot of other slang (and sometimes disgusting) stuff. What does “ephemeral” mean and how can you use it in a sentence? There are word-a-day features that will send such fascinating material straight to your inbox.
Facebook allows you to make connections with all kinds of people and organizations that can broaden your knowledge of nearly anything, from folklore to recipes to astronomy to musical instruments, to name just a few. If you don’t know people who do those things, there are entire groups dedicated to them.
Fascinating trivia can also be found in books as well. My husband always has books of trivia in the bathroom that contain info on everything from famous movie bloopers to word origins to obscure facts about historical figures. It’s always enlightening when he emerges from the house’s smallest room and greets me with, “Honey, did you know…?” (even if it does make me feel like I’m on a quiz show).
Talking to people, both ones you know and strangers you meet in public places, can be enlightening as well. You can hear stories from older relatives about life when they were young. A conversation with someone you meet on a plane can give you insight about Scottish customs or Cockney slang. Everyone knows something about something. Will you ever use the knowledge. I say it doesn’t matter – your life is now richer.
I count a day when I don’t learn something new as a day wasted. I love it when I’m able to start a Facebook post with TIL (Today I learned) or “I was today years old when I learned that….” Learning is all around you. You just have to reach out and grab it!