With graduation season almost here, the commencement speeches will begin to flow and words of wisdom about future selves will be shared. Here is my reflection to my younger self on how learning experiences starts to fit together.
Dear Younger Self,
You know you need to learn concepts, reasoning, and skills, but sometimes it seems hard to understand why you have to learn certain topics. You put in strained brainpower on a math problems to come up with a seeming useless answer of negative infinity. You write a thousand-word paper on what role Davie Crockett played in the battle of the Alamo to find out that your thesis statement wasn’t strong enough to carry the paper to an “A.” And I do all this for what reason,” you ask.
While these assignments taken individually look irrelevant to your future, taken together, they are teaching you skills like problem-solving and time and project management. Learning is greater than the sum of your assignments, homework, and tests. Even if you see no way you can use the information in your future, the underlying principles you learn will appear when you least expect it in life. Filling out a job application. Figuring out ticketing options visiting Disney. Comforting a sad friend. Managing your finances.
Even if I pointed this out to you earlier in your life, you still would not have believed me. In your eyes, useless is something whose value can’t be seen immediately. Your still developing personal foundation requires you formulate your own understanding of the information your formally learn and skills you informally acquire to shape who you are, what you are, what you seek to know, and where you go with your life.
I do wish for you to understand that you not only learn through textbooks. Watch those around you interact. Listen to their stories. Experience nature. Connect with the world, but remember to use a filter with social media because while it is a gift of communication, it can also be the dark side of information gone wild. Enter your days ready to learn and hold on tight like you did to your first teddy bear to the information that lights and fuels your passion. This energy will push and support you when learning and life get tough.
Learning should not stop when you graduate any particular level of school. The world continues to constantly change – move on, rise, and fall. Lifelong learning is your force to maneuver the dynamics of these changes. Read books. Take classes. Download aps. Daydream and write. Learn something new each day.
At some point, not too far from today, you will understand why you needed all of this crazy textbook learning. And, what you learned goes way deeper than the grade you got on a test or the hundred pages you read for an assignment. Through you and your interactions with those around you, your learning truly will live on forever.
Seeing it differently now,
Older Learning Self
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