Still Learning

I’m writing through the fog of a bad head cold today. A side effect of having small, independent-minded, growing humans in the house that I am sure you all are intimately familiar with. I mention this not to remind you that your next bad head-cold is only one germy kiss away, but rather because it is harder than usual to keep track of important things like syntax and grammar when your sinuses feel like great big watermelons around your eyeballs. With that in mind, rather than tell a story today, I’m going to share a few ideas for something that I was surprised would be so important to me when I became a mother: Mental stimulation.

I have always enjoyed a love of learning, but those first months after having a baby put a bit of a damper on my greater curiosity because I was just so interested in my own tiny human (and also too busy and sleep-deprived and hormone-inhibited to focus on much else). Eventually, though, I began to long for mental stimulation beyond what I could get reading Fox in Sox for the 5th time in a row.

Over the last few years, I’ve fed that longing in a variety of ways – reading, writing, museum visits, new endeavors – but with limited time and attention to spend on it with so many other demands on my time. I have, however, found intellectual stimulation to be absolutely vital to my satisfaction and happiness as a human being. In fact, when I was mentally stagnating, I felt depressed. Just this last semester, I started taking a course at the local community college in preparation for a career change and seeking a master’s degree down the road, and it has been a revelation of sorts for me. I LOVE going to class, studying, taking exams. And who doesn’t love a “great job” or an “A” on a paper? It’s such a concise little pat on the back. I expressed this to my husband. “What if this is the secret to my long-term happiness? What if all it took was taking one class a semester for the rest of my life?”

At a few hundred dollars per class, maybe that isn’t the most realistic option. Luckily, there are a lot of other possibilities for learning. Many of my peers also are smart, curious women who enjoy learning new things and using their minds beyond the crossword in the newspaper. How do we feed this part of ourselves that is so important to our joie de vivre? Here are a few of my favorites.

~ Online learning is HUGE these days, with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in practically every subject you could take an interest in, and most of them are FREE. Amazing! Here are a few sites you might want to check out.

http://www.moocs.co/ A comprehensive directory of online courses.

https://www.khanacademy.org/ Math! And also short videos on many other subjects.

http://www.codecademy.com/ Learn a new skill with programming!

~ Used textbooks, particularly a previous edition, are fairly cheap and a great way to learn more about a subject of interest. Find them easily through your favorite online bookseller.

~ Adult learning opportunities through the public library system. Our library provides access to research databases, genealogy information, and a host of in-person workshops and events. Not to mention, of course, books – fiction, nonfiction, even textbooks. What does your local library offer?

~ Take up a new hobby or skill. I got really involved in cooking for a while. What interests you? Is it something that would require you to enjoy some grown-up time, or something that you could enjoy with kids around?

~ For an introvert like me, I don’t usually prefer special interest meetup groups, but there are a LOT. If you need to get out of the house, especially without kids, and you’d like to have other grown-ups to talk to without needing to change a diaper or remind anyone to put on their coat, a social group might be for you.

What else have you found that supports your curiosity? Leave a note in the comments, and happy learning!

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