Monday, March 3, 2014

Life-Long Learning and The Importance of Practice

Canning savory jelly for the first time last fall.
I am a life-long learner.  This is a phrase I've learned from the library world that I like very much.  I found that the general goal of libraries is to help cultivate a society where the citizens are always learning, always wanting more information on a perpetually broadening range of topics.  I want education to continue the whole span of a person's life.  Learning should not end when one leaves the classroom behind.  Every single day holds an opportunity to expand your mind.  To learn something new.  To refine an old skill.
The expanded garden last spring.
There are so many things in this world one can learn about.  New skills, crafts, or trades, history, art, current events and politics, the sciences, literature both foreign and regional, religion and philosophy, geography, and on and on and on.
Ricing potatoes during our lefsa lesson with Sharon.
I am constantly discovering new things that I want to learn more about or be able to do.  I want to learn to play the flute.  I want to learn more of the history of the middle east.  I want to expand my vocabulary so I can break 400 in Scrabble.  I want to learn more about the ancient Egyptians.  I want to learn more about calligraphy.  I want to learn to sew more of my own clothes and household items. I want to learn more about the Baha'i faith and Quakers and Unitarian Universalists.  I want to learn how to play bar chords on my guitar.  I want to learn how to make my own deodorant.  I want to learn to knit things other than dish cloths.  I want to learn to embroider.  I want to learn the German language.  I want to learn to make braided rag rugs.  I want to learn more recipes that work well as freezer meals.  And a million other things.
Pansies--my long favorite flower--have competition since I learned about the glory that is clematis, like this beauty that clings to the fence dividing our property from the neighbors.
And in all that learning practice makes perfect.  That is not new information.  But, you know, its interesting to me to think of how often I can grow discouraged when trying something new and how often I see those around me be equally discouraged in their new endeavors even though we all know this age old truth--practice makes perfect.
We finally figured out the trick to balancing two gyroscopes on top of each other thanks to JD.
Learning new things is hard.  That is just the way it is.  At least, that is usually the way it is.  Occasionally one might attempt a new task and prove to be "a natural" at it, but for the most part it takes time to get good at something new whether that is brewing beer, hiking, writing in cursive, or making homemade chapstick.
Preparing batches of homemade ravioli for quick, convenient use out of the freezer.
Matt and I were talking about this months ago in long meandering conversation about work, practice, and experience.  It keeps kicking around in my head ever since.

Matt was dealing with someone at work who was frustrated at their inability to preform as well as Matt.  Matt tried to reassure the man that he was doing fine for his first week on the job--that it takes years and years of practice before it is as effortless as it is for Matt.  (Matt has been at his job for almost nine years now.)
Matt showing me how its done with the Spirograph--a toy that always intrigued me since I was a little girl, but which I never had the chance to try until I was 29 years old.
Matt then went on to tell me about how when he was a little boy he though his dad was amazing at everything he did.  Roger was so much bigger, stronger, and more experienced than little Matt.  Matt said something along the lines of,  "I can remember thinking stuff like 'My dad is the best at using a shovel.'  He could dig a perfectly round hole in no time at all and it would take me forever and it would be all irregular and the pile of dirt would be spread all over.  And then I realized he's used a shovel for thousands of hours and I'd only used one for a few of hours.  So, of course he was better than me."

It was a sweet story, I thought, with Matt's clear pride in his father and gratitude from learning from him.  Its also a good illustration of my point, too.  Rather than be envious or frustrated that we're not as good as someone else at the same task we should recognize that we're still learning--we're still learning to be the best at it that we can be.  And that takes practice.
I am finally making progress with identifying raptors.  This is the first rough-legged hawk I ever successfully ID'd, taken just last month.
We should all feel free to explore our world and our place in it.  To try new projects, plans, innovations--to follow the paths of our dreams wherever they may lead.  The whole while keeping in the back of our minds that we may fail at first.  But, that is no reason not to try again.  Expecting otherwise might actually be misguided.
Socks are tricky to tie-dye because they're so small and tend to contain synthetic fiber, but Matt finally nailed it.


  1. I enjoy learning new things. I like to crochet and knit and enjoy trying new techniques and stitches, some are quite challenging and I really like the sense of accomplishment.
    I have taught myself many useful skills over the years and so has my husband, between us we are quite self-sufficient. My husband can take care of most household and vehicle repairs which is very useful and a money saving skill to boot.
    I think of all the things we can do that were really not that hard to learn and the many times people say oh I wish I had the time to do/learn this or that and have realized that everyone has the time to do/learn new skills but they also have to have the desire.


  2. I tried making homemade tortillas 3 times. Never good. I set it aside for awhile before trying the second time. And again before trying the third.

    I go in spells where I really just want to work on skills I've already mastered. Then other times I am eager to try to master something new. (Still have the tortillas in the back of my mind, but it's not a priority right now.) I would like to learn to graft. I have been watching youtube videos, and have talked to someone whose brother grafts everything in sight. It's a goal. :)


Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!