‘Nothing in the entire world is perfect.’
It was a cold wintery afternoon, when Emily and I unbundled ourselves from our coats to take a seat at our table. Our hot chocolates warmed our chilled hands as we talked about her passion for learning. She explained that she has many different hobbies, but the factor that links them all is learning something new.
‘It’s the learning part of it that I get the most excited about.’
Emily swing dances, does yoga, is a student and also writes. She manages to also keep up to date with specific Youtube channels that discuss travel and mental health. In the past, she has tried ballroom dancing, stand-up paddle boarding, bouldering and wants to travel to Japan on a teaching exchange or Europe for her master’s.
‘Finding new opportunities to learn, that’s what keeps me going’
It can sometimes be frustrating, she explained, when she is learning something new if she doesn’t catch on right away. I asked how she overcomes her desire to perfect a new skill immediately. She explained that ‘nothing in the entire world is perfect’ and then went on to use yoga as an example. ‘It’s not about doing the perfect pose every time you do it; it’s about working towards it.’
Emily told me that when she becomes discouraged or frustrated with the learning curve associated with a new skill, she reflects on the reasoning. She then reorients herself to enjoying the process as well as the end result. She explained that the journey to learning something new is almost the entire part, and you can never stop learning.
‘Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you have to make money’
Emily explained that she would love to write or direct as her dream job. She has also considered working with an NGO or in the government. ‘All I know is that I want to have a balance of being able to do what I want.’ For Emily, doing what she wants includes balancing her desire to help people, taking care of herself and meeting her creative needs.
Emily has no directing experience, she explained, but has worked in sound and lighting for her high school plays. She has always had an eye for the use of camera angles and lighting in the videos and movies she watches.
Graduation day is coming in the spring for Emily. While she may not be learning in the traditional way with pen and paper for much longer, she has plans to continue learning through travel and trying new hobbies. For Emily, learning is a lifestyle. She is open to new experiences and hopes to continue for the rest of her life.
Learning a new Skill
Emily’s desire to learn new things led me on a search for how we actually learn something new. The brain is our biggest ally in this process. For the purposes of an example, try and learn the sequence of numbers below.
How many times did you have to read them over? I had to read at least five times and repeat it back to myself a few more times after that. There is a scientific reason as to why we don’t memorize it on the first try.
To learn or memorize something, a connection in the brain between two neurons (the cells in the brain) needs to be achieved. Training Industry explains that all sensory information is sent temporarily to short-term memory. The short-term memory process all incoming information before sending it to long-term memory.
For a piece of information to be passed along to long-term memory, where it will be stored and remembered, it must pass between neurons in a process called a synapse. Khan Academy explains that a synapse is where the information jumps from one neuron to another using both chemical and electrical means.
The University of California Irvine’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory concluded that information is easier to recall the more a neuron pathway is used.
Use brushing your teeth as an example. Do you really think about the process anymore? These specific neurons are used more frequently and result in less conscious effort. This information is ingrained in our system, which makes it that much easier to do.
If you compare the amount of mental effort we use with that of a two year old however, you’ll see that they require more time and energy to finish brushing their teeth. This is because this neuron connection is not as well formed in comparison to someone who has been brushing their teeth for years.
Learning a new skill takes effort and time, something that is sometimes difficult to find. It is worth it. Each experience, event or piece of information you take in gives you a different perspective on the world. Let yourself be open to learning new things and the opportunities are endless. Learning is a process and it might now come right away. Stick with it and you will make it.
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