In the midst of high school graduation and university convocation season I started thinking about learning. We know some of the finest minds emerge from these schools and take their rightful place in their field of studies. They make contributions to medicine, science, humanities, art. And the world and we are a better place because of them.
I also know this isn’t the only measure of learning. Or the place it happens. From my perspective some of the most useful lessons come from life itself. I have no intention of debating the merits of classroom study versus those grasped on the campus of life. We need both, and if we’re lucky we get to continue our education as long as we want, or until the student loans become due. We are free to continue learning, formally and informally, until the day we draw our last breath. All we need invest is our curiosity and our time.
When did this insight come to me? Halfway through day two of mowing our grass the first time this season. Because there is a lot of grass we use a riding mower. The weather was warm and dry. The grass seemed to spring up overnight and in many shaded areas was waaaay too tall. The first mowing is always a bad scene. There is the gravel the snowplow has moved onto our lawn. There is the winter detritus?fallen pinecones, broken twigs, stuff the wind blew in?all over the place. But because Roy had real farm work to do, the miserable job fell to me.
My modus operandi has always been “give ’er and get ’er done.” I tear around at full throttle and cover a helluva lot of ground in not too many hours. Often the results are not too good. As I struggled through heavy growth Roy heard the belts squealing across the whole yard and appeared at my side. With advice. I was unimpressed. I was pissed off. He throttled back the accelerator. As teachers go, he wasn’t great. He did not explain in a way that I understood or accepted. It didn’t help I was an angry learner.
But, hallelujah, the angels sang out. For the first time in decades of mowing I learned that, if you slow down, the blades have time to turn and cut without missing chunks, and the mower does not stall in heavy growth. I was doing a better job without drama or angst. I had time for the contemplative thinking that organically happens when doing mindless, repetitive tasks. I realized that if we are open to listening we can learn (even from a spouse) at any age. Even when someone may think she knows it all. Even if the teacher doesn’t explain until the student understands.
So whether you’re a newly minted grad or have a doctorate in life, keep learning. It’s never too late. The lessons may be monumental or trivial but the blessing is in the insight, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.