Being able to able to live without the restriction of formal employment gives me lot’s of time to feed my brain.
“Feeding” my brain on the surface level is learning: reading books, taking classes, going to lectures, visiting museums or historical sites. Being a teacher I spent years talking to to students and hearing from my colleagues about the value of being a lifelong learner.
The concept of a lifelong learner came from an agreement by European education ministers to drastically improve education on their continent. Finland is an example of a European country who went from low levels of education to being ranked #1 in world for public education using this concept (among others) to develop dynamic curriculum.
The goal of education systems to create lifelong learners was well received world wide. By the 90’s school systems in the United States embraced the concept and included lifelong learning as a desired outcome of large numbers of school districts across the country.
My small community in Mesquite Nevada is filled with lifelong learners. The senior center is a busy place with people taking classes and attending group study sessions on a variety of topics. Our community has arts groups that encourage people to explore everything from ceramics to theatre. There are also clubs which focus on the history and geology of our region.
There is of course another view of the culture of learners in the retirement years. I have heard many people say “I just need something to do” or “My wife/husband gets bored sitting around the house.” “I need to get out and meet people.” All of these reasons do not negate taking the time to learn; but for me this time in my life presents an opportunity to take some real risks.
At a deeper level feeding the brain is being open to learning, allowing yourself to be in uncomfortable (or dare I say scary) situations and not being attached to expectations.
I have just returned from a SAQA conference where I thought I was just going to attend a meeting and found new inspiration through the variety of opportunities to learn I found at this gathering of artists.
Heading to the conference, I was not enthusiastic. When I travel alone (without my husband) I am not my best. I get nervous. Not knowing specifically where I am going, using a new transit system, figuring out how to get around the venue to the right place and the right time freaks me out a little.
I started the conference at a meeting of regional representatives. I found myself hearing accents from around the world and listening to people who were coming from vastly different perspectives. At these meetings you can tune out until your ideas are confirmed or you can be open to thinking in different ways.
As the day ended, I found myself running up to my room to write down many ideas that I am trying right now to grow the community of art quilters in my area. On the attendees list printed in the catalogue I highlighted and made notes that helped me connected faces with names. I learned more at meeting from listening and connecting than I would have from formal training.
The conference itself was a series of lectures, breakout sessions, panel discussions, social events and activities. It was good mix of fun, learning specific skills and getting a larger picture of the world of art quilting/fiber arts.
We heard from an impressive museum curator who spend sometime unwinding an argument of art vs. craft. There were a panel discussions of international artists. Graduate students and local artists shared with attendees their work and their deeply held beliefs about the value of artistic expression. Lectures included social media, the nuts and bolts of running a major fiber arts show, establishing an artistic practice and grant writing.
My take away from this event was that the informal learning from fellow attendees proved to be the of the greatest value. Talking to people. Reaching out and making connections. That is the gift I brought home.
Until Next Time!
Weight Loss Update: 3 lbs!