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3. The Importance of Always Learning

When I was younger, I made the mistaken assumption that most of one’s learning should take place during childhood. It was sensible given my environment; modern society gives us this impression by making us go through most or all of our formal education at a young age.

But it’s also a bad assumption. I would argue it can even be crippling if people presume that they know everything they need to know because they have a college education (or worse, merely a high school education).

That’s not to say that everyone needs to go to college; far from it, especially given the exorbitant cost of higher education in the United States. But I do believe that people need to be willing to continue taking in new information so they can learn and grow all their lives, rather than becoming sixty-five-year-old retirees with all the wisdom of a teenager.

I am currently trying to rectify my mistaken assumption that I had all the skills I would ever need when I was twenty-two years old, and the way I’m starting is by learning to program. Sure, I knew the fundamental skills (reading, writing, speaking, math, the usual suspects) that one needs to get an average job, and I picked up a passing talent at salesmanship mostly by accident during my time in the workforce. But I finished school with no skills that I loved to hone and practice that would allow me to stand out in the workforce. I was lost.

Fortunately, I found programming, which is a completely foreign skill to someone who graduated from college with a Communications Degree. Even though it’s often disheartening and frustrating to learn something so different from any other skill I’ve acquired in my life, I love doing it. I love building websites with Ruby on Rails, blending together several different languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and, of course, Ruby), integrating the models, views, and controllers that form the site, and creating the classes and methods that form those.

Sometimes I want to throw my computer at the wall when it reminds me that I’m so new to this. It can be frustrating for someone who sees themselves as a functioning adult to struggle to write even the simplest lines of code properly. In some ways it feels like going back to elementary school, starting my education all over.

But let me tell you this: despite the challenges, it is so, so worth it to pick up a new skill. Aside from the fact that new skills like programming can offer new (and better-paying) job opportunities, it is a strangely wonderful feeling to learn new things again, especially when it’s by choice (rather than by law, as most of public education is). Whether you want to learn programming, photography, writing, filmmaking, canoeing, martial arts, or differential calculus, I highly encourage anyone (especially those of us who are done with our “official” education) to spend time learning something new. It can be challenging, yes, but those challenges make it all the more rewarding.

Dan RiceComment