[Written by Anastasija Svarevska]
[Image Credit: Pixabay//Nic0leta]
A few years ago, my dad told me that “once you stop learning, you commit a mental suicide”—or “start dying” as Einstein once put it. Back then, I did not really pay attention to his words—at least, I thought so—because, being 15, learning was antithetical to my desires. However, for a while now, I have been wondering why I am doing what I am doing—that is, joining a good many clubs and societies on campus, trying to be here and there and everywhere, and willing to give a shot at new and unfamiliar things. I realised that my dad’s words had struck a chord in my heart and, unconsciously, left an imprint on me.
Learning new skills as an adult can seem pointless. Moreover, university studies can sometimes feel overwhelmingly exhausting. While I believe it is important to avoid wearing yourself out by biting off more than you can chew, I also think it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and experiment. As long as that energy is not misdirected, trying new things is energy-replenishing rather than energy-sapping.
First of all – and this especially applies to being at university – there is such a great variety of new things to try and to learn (I mean, there is skydiving and surfing and choir and magazines and baking and dancing; it is actually hard to decide what exactly to try out), which makes it nearly impossible not to find anything that one would truly enjoy. While investing time in something that brings joy is already rewarding in itself, it only gets more rewarding as time passes and the skill is fostered.
Secondly, giving new things a try usually has a social aspect to it. You can meet people who share the same interests and passions or, at least, the same drive to develop a new skill. Hobbies bring people together, and it is always more fun when you learn and thrive together with someone, encouraging each other on the way and making friends. Even if you won’t be able to have deep conversations and discuss your problems, at the bare minimum you can talk about the thing that has united you in the first place—such as language and linguistics, or which tennis rackets are the best, or where one can go windsurfing in Scotland, or the merits of different types of drawing pencils… perhaps over a cup of coffee.
Speaking from personal experience, my first year at university was overwhelming not because of studies, but because of how many things I wanted to do. I wanted to play basketball, try out football, go skiing with the snowboarding club, dance, take a shot at horse-riding, and so on and so forth. I was spending enough time on studying to perform well, but I was tossing around a lot not knowing which new things to take up. It was, indeed, hard to narrow down all the things I drew a bead on.
However, once I settled upon some things and learnt how to be in charge of my time, life got all the more fulfilling. Regardless of having uni work to do, I now learn French, do boxing, acquire new skills relevant to my position of social media and events executive for a society, and write; all the while always looking for opportunities to have a go at something new and exciting. As cheesy as it gets, you only live once.
It is a cliché to affirm that it’s never too late to learn. But it remains the case that it is never too late. One doesn’t have to become a professional at any novel activity that one is willing to try. Discovering new skills not only promotes personal growth and opens the door for having fun and making friends, but also allows you to discover and better understand yourself—and isn’t that what we’re all trying to do at the end of the day?