At some point or another, the familiar environment of traditional school learning falls away from your life. I imagine it can range to almost any age or level of schooling, but I would posit that it happens to basically everyone. For me, it happened when I graduated from college and was no longer in an environment directed towards learning, but for some it gets more complicated. This is an idea that I've been working on mentally since before I left college and I was spurred on to write this post when I read a friend of mine's latest post on his own blog, titled "Since We Last Spoke". Ethan Robertson and I have known each other for a long time - having gone to the same middle school, high school, and college - and he's now in graduate school in Wuhan China, where he started his blog Wuhan Thinking. His latest post talked about the struggle he's had motivating himself to learn under a different, less directed style of learning environment which is something I relate to, though I can imagine that being in a graduate program is tough enough even when it isn't in a different country.
I do relate in the sense that there is no one governing my learning process anymore. One thing that I knew I wanted to do when I graduated was to keep learning, but it's difficult when going to classes doesn't constitute any part of your daily tasks. My resolution was to read more and go back through text books from classes I enjoyed that I felt I could get more out of. As you might expect, this is more difficult than it sounds. Learning is not always an easy thing to do, but I find teaching myself things and learning on my own is far more rewarding because of the fact that I'm dictating the process. To this end, my goal everyday is to do one thing to learn something and get better.
Somewhere I heard someone say it: "get better today," or something along those lines and it is similar to what my high school football coach would say probably 3 times per practice, "you either get better or worse, you never stay the same." While the phrasing may have its flaws, the core meaning of these kinds of statements never resonated with me as much until I was the one directing my own development and now, much to my own chagrin, they have worked their way into my own philosophy.
My definition of learning is maybe broader than it should be, I include any kind of betterment into the idea now with the rationalization that if I do at least one thing to get better, I'll probably want to do more. Whether its running, lifting, drum exercises, or a more academic form of betterment, they all play a critical role - and I would say an interdependent one - in my personal progression. Most recently, I have been doing what I consider to be a study of Tolkien writings: I started with The Hobbit and worked my way through The Lord of The Rings trilogy and am now making my way through the appendices and the Silmarillion before finally coming to the translation of Beowulf that Tolkien did along with some of his notes on it from his time at Cambridge - my excitement for that part of my journey cannot be described.
Coming back to Ethan's post, he talks about evolving as a person being the best thing you can do for yourself but that, "change is often accompanied by many stressful nights laying in bed wondering what exactly I have gotten myself into." I've definitely found myself asking the same questions, especially in the past few months, but I think if I wasn't asking the questions, it would be a more concerning situation. Complacency scares me more than doing something stupid. To reference another football coach's saying, if you don't know what you're supposed to do, fire off the ball at 100 miles per hour and hit somebody; you can only be so wrong. While I'm not literally hitting people, the sentiment remains that you just have to do something. Do one thing and more will fall into place.