This entry was inspired by dada….
It’s been two years since I graduated college and I have begun to really miss learning.
By “learning”, I don’t mean knowing facts, because I have a lifelong professor named Trebek who can provide me with those. It’s more that when you’re in school, you are forced to engage your mind on a daily basis. Mind you, I only took class four days a week and spent the other three days actively trying to destroy any smidgen of positive brain activity, but still, for those four days, I had to think and, more importantly, I had to create.
Now that I’m in “the real world” (which by the way is not more or less real than the world I already knew), I have found it harder and harder to keep my mind engaged. So much of my energy is taken up in the 8+ hours I spend in the office, that when I get home all I want to do is eat, watch American Idol and get back in bed. I wish I could read the paper everyday, or practice piano more, or try to re-learn Italian, but seriously how do people get the energy? I’m beginning to understand why so many people give up on education as they get older and are content to simply make ends meet.
But this prospect is scary to me. I don’t want to be one of those people. I want to use this brain that I was given.
A recent New York Times article did well to calm this fear and to make me think there is hope for Cedric (the name of my brain) as I slowly climb closer toward my middle-aged years. The article cites a study that attempted to determine what makes adult minds tick.
The gist of the study is this: People who are middle-aged and older are no longer able to take in and retain facts like they could when they were younger. Thus, while going back to school and learning new things can never be a be a negative, these are not the best methods for keeping adult minds active. Instead, the study found (and this was some scientific shit with neurons and electric pulses and cool flashing lights inside diagrams of brains, not some bullshit sociological study) that the best way for people to keep their brains healthy is to pursue activities, situations, and ideas that are out of their comfort zones.
Basically the idea is that if you want to stay mentally sharp until the time you’re shitting in a diaper, you need to challenge your mind (and I don’t mean with super-hard Sudoku puzzles). You need to challenge your preconceptions and beliefs, and, I’d add, to confront your fears. So, if you’re scared of heights, go to the Sears Tower Skydeck and dance around like an idiot. If you don’t believe in God, go to a Baptist church and listen to the choir sing their hearts out. If you’re a liberal, listen to Rush Limbaugh (no don’t really) or read some conservative blogs. If you’re a straight girl, why not taste some cherry chap stick. It feels so wrong, but it feels so right! Just do SOMETHING that you wouldn’t normally do, and keep on doing it and doing it.
It’s no revelation that most people become more close-minded as they get older. They get in routines and stop trying new things. They stick with ideologies instead of objectively judging every situation on its own. They stop DISCOVERING things. Now that my many years of schooling have come to an end, I feel this void. I don’t miss learning about abstract expressionism or what the fuck a synecdoche is; I miss the general air of discovery that school, especially college, produces. Our minds are at their best during these years because as college students we constantly encounter new things. You know, it’s like, experimentation brah.
So for now on, it’s my goal to abide by the conclusions of this study. Call it a late New Year’s Resolution, but one that will last a lifetime, not just for 2010. I want to have that feeling again, the one I had in college, the feeling that each day brought an opportunity to grow, a chance to become a better man. Maybe I didn’t realize it at the time, but that is what we all had when we were in school. It’s only now that school is over that I miss this feeling. And I hope this column is just the beginning of my journey to get it back.
The Diggles can be reached at RDiggles@GDPmagazine.com.