How Do Adults Learn New Things?

When I graduated from college I immediately felt a deep sense of learning-related dispair. The university had provided me with constant, patience access to new, fresh, and important knowledge.

It was a privileged experience. To have someone walk me through difficult to understand concepts. To have the ability to get loans to attend this school in a liberal city where classes like “social justice and activism” and “introduction to transgender studies” were on the menu.

And then, suddenly, it was over. And as I logged on to twitter each week I became progressively less-and-less in the loop. I realized that when you’re not in a focused, structured learning environment, you have to try twice as hard.

How do adults learn new things?

Task: Keeping up on women’s studies & sexualities

A few months after I graduated I realized that with a library card I could access scholarly articles online. I immediately began printing JSTOR articles to highlight and process – one per day if I could swing it (now more like 3 per month.) It’s been an incredible resource to keep my mind sharp when it comes to new, interesting, or complex ideas relating to subjects that interest me.

I’m also a big fan of reading personal narratives (peoples blogs, for instance). Tying that together with the scholarly articles makes me feel like I’m getting a good mix of stories and ideas. It also prevents me from feeling like I’m only reading the same recycled concepts over, and over, and over again.

Task: become fluent in french

If you’ve ever traveled to Europe you may have also experienced this deep sense of shame. Three languages, fluent, tons of confidence? Bien sûr. But me? I may as well carry around an English dictionary to better understand my own language. While I’ve taken French in middle school, high school, and college, and been to France three times, I can still hardly hold a conversation.

I’ve recently picked up Duolingo again and have been increasing my practice daily (they say I’m 50% fluent, which is a sham). I’ve also picked up a copy of Harry Potter in French which I’m hoping to team up with my French dictionary to gain a more practical understanding of how the language actually sounds.

Task: Learn more career related tasks

A few weeks ago I signed up for the free trial of Lynda.com. I wanted to strengthen my understanding of SEO and Adwords, and I’d heard great things about these online courses. Lynda is typically about $20 a month, but a friend of mine led me on to the fact that library cards often let you in for free. (Again, how rad are libraries?) Now I have a free membership and am working my way through different courses that will help me perform better at work and strengthen my resume.

Task: Watercolors & lettering

I have a small collection of Dr Ph Martin water color paints on my desk. They work great for lettering and watercolor painting. But my skills are rudementary and I often feel like I’m not really utilizing the tools like I ought to be. Youtube has been awesome for running me through basic skills that I never had the opportunity to learn before. Really, you can learn anything on Youtube (I’m also learning how to style my hair and apply makeup.)

If you find a channel you like – follow it. It can be a lot of fun if you find someone who has a style similar to you. Their advice, guidance, and recommendations can become an essential part of your week!

How do you continue to learn as you shift into adulthood? What tasks have you wanted to learn, what hobbies have you wanted to take up? Drop your thoughts in the comments!


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