Wednesday, 7 January 2015

An Ambiguous Journey

At the end of 2013, I embarked on an ambiguous journey of self-study: I was set to study my honours degree in General Teaching and Learning and in the process, I discovered more about myself and life in general.

Initially, I was engulfed with despondency because my personal view of studying at my “particular age” meant suffering. I could already see how Time and I would constantly be at each other’s throats. And I hate conflict.

I took the assignments in my stride. I gave each one my best and had very little concern about the results. I kept telling myself that at my “particular age” and with my efforts of putting my best teaching foot forward each day, there would be no pressure to achieve the ultimate. And so I was satisfied with each outcome. Except one. I remember getting 66% for one assignment and was totally gobsmacked. What was up with the double 6? But I built a bridge and got over it!

My first exam paper in decades was an epiphany. I realised studying had nothing to do with a “particular age”! The identity was clear: I was a student. I walked into the hall, late! I sat down trying to be as discreet in my movement as possible. But the table groaned and the chair creaked, and the supervisor who was reading out the rules suddenly kept quiet. I was the centre of attention. When I received my answer sheet, I had to fill in more details than I thought – at that point – were necessary. I didn’t know the name of the exam centre; I forgot my student number and couldn’t remember the date. My stunned brain cells and fixed eyes focused on the answer sheet, but nothing came to mind other than my name. The supervisor asked us to put down our pens. I hadn’t filled in a thing. Not even my name. The exam papers were handed out and we were told to read through them for ten minutes prior to starting. My only concern was that I hadn’t filled in my details.

I was a nervous wreck throughout that paper. I wrote slowly, neatly and deliberately. I stressed about the time. I couldn’t even see the clock in the front and had to stretch to the length of an ostrich-neck to see whether or not I was managing my time effectively. I feared someone would think I was craning to crib. The invigilators that passed me kept stopping to read what I had written. So it seemed. At the end of the session, when I handed in my paper, two of the invigilators complimented me on having such beautiful handwriting. I smiled feebly and walked out of the hall on jelly legs. Needless to say, the second exam session for the year was much better.

My first year has finally come to an end and I have passed all my subjects. During the school holiday, I managed to complete 4 of the 6 assignments that are due in March 2015. I’m on a roll, here. And the initial fear and nervousness has panned out into something more exhilarating. Soon, I’ll be done and then what? I turn 50 in October. What do I do when this roller-coaster ride stops?

What I’ve learned on this incredible journey is that we’re never too old to do something, especially learn. At first, it may seem to be an enormous sacrifice. After all, who wants to suffer the discomfort of stretching their mind to the point of no return? And that is exactly what it is. Once stretched, the mind cannot return to its original dimensions. Once you know something, you can never “not know it” again.

An educable mind keeps us growing. I think an idle mind may be the most dangerous one of all. If it doesn’t get us into trouble, it certainly gets us into trouble. Redundant? But effective! Is there a difference? Perhaps not – because there are no degrees of comparison: trouble is trouble. It just emphasizes the concern we should have for an idle mind. It certainly has more time to think. 

And what exactly does an idle mind think about if its horizons aren’t broadened?

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