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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How To Keep Track of Your Favorite Blogs

There’s nothing more fun than finding a favorite blogger or two and following along with their story. I was talking to a friend the other day about blogging and he made a really interesting point that I’ve been ruminating over ever since. With the pure amount of content we’re being barraged with, it feels like it’s less about what someone is writing about and more about who is writing it.

Do you like their style? Do you like their voice?

I just thought that was so true. I read such a wide variety of blogs – everything from sex blogs to lifestyle, cooking, or even religious blogs. What makes me feel excited about a blog is the blogger. Do I care about this person? Do I want to know what they have to say, specifically?

Despite having a few favorites, I still follow what may be considered an excessive number of blogs.

How can you keep it all straight while still prioritizing the content that is most important?

Subscribe to their blog

I only subscribe to blogs where I genuinely want to read every post that someone writes. Some people use their email inbox as a sorting and filing system but I’m a massive fan of inbox zero. That means I hate when something is just sitting in my inbox! If I really want to read a blog I subscribe to it and then read it as soon as it pops in my inbox. Generally these are the blogs I comment on and engage with the most.

Follow them on Twitter and Instagram

Bloggers are utilizing Twitter and Instagram more and more to notify followers of new content. What’s so fun about these formats is that they tend to be much more visual. I can decide whether or not I want to read a blog by a photo or a quick blurb. Both Twitter and Instagram offer push notifications for specific users which can help you stay on top of new content as it happens! Ding! @Suggestive has a new tweet!

Create and maintain an RSS Reader

I’m a longtime supporter of the Reeder App for Mac and iOS. Create an account and load in links for the sites you want to follow. I have everything from blogs to more website-y websites like Gizmodo! This saves all the content you read in one convenient, easy to read app, with the ability to quickly scan and remove content that isn’t interesting. [Reeder App]

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The Identity Politics of No Sex for Four Weeks

Sexual  identity is more than just your sexual orientation. Your sexual identity can also include things like what kind of sex you like, kinks or fetishes, or how frequently you have sex.

So what happens to your sense of self when certain parts of that identity aren’t being utilized? 

After my LEEP procedure my doctor said that I couldn’t have penetrative sex for four weeks. When the whole waiting period is said and done, that will be the longest time I’ve ever stayed abstinent.

A couple disclaimers: This isn’t a big woe is me because I don’t actually think four weeks is a very long time. It would be fine if someone did think four weeks was a long time, but I don’t. Four weeks goes quick. Also, my doctor didn’t say no sex for four weeks. She just said no penetrative sex for four weeks. There’s a distinction. But for me, sex almost always means penetration. So her saying no penetration was effectively saying no sex. There are a lot of other things to do, but it’s just different for me, and that’s okay. (Also with the amount of bleeding, pinching, and cramping, I’m not feeling all that sexy anyways.)

All of this got me wondering about identity

At a different point in my life, if I weren’t able to have sex for a long stretch of time (due to stress, anxiety, medical issues, etc) I would feel less than myself. I viewed myself as sexual and thought that to fulfill that identity I had to act out what a sexual person does. If I wasn’t doing sexual things all the time, I was, in some way, failing myself and the guidelines I’d set for myself and who I am.

At times, I would even go out of my way to try things that I wasn’t interested in doing or push myself outside of my comfort zone because I thought “huh, if my identity is this, I should say yes, because I’ll probably like it, right?” Big heavy yuck.

Be aware of false prophets. If anyone ever says “but I thought you were cool” tell them that cool is whatever the fuck you say it is. 

But people do this all the time right?  Women wonder if they’re actually bisexual if they’ve never kissed another woman. A guy looks at another guy he finds attractive and spends the rest of the day re-asserting his heterosexuality to balance it out. We have scripts for what a person of  identity does, and what being X looks like, and when we don’t live up to those arbitrary guidelines, we can start to feel off or less than ourselves.

Learning that my identity can be stable has been important as my life has become more fluid.

The reality is that we may not always be able to do the things that we define ourselves by. That’s hard. Especially if these things are deeply wrapped into our identity and who we are.

Sometimes we have no choice. We may develop a disability that in some way prevents us from doing the things that we used to define ourselves by. We may become sick. Our health may impede us. A writer may be unable to write for weeks at a time. A surfer may lose the ability to use his legs. This is getting grim, I know, but I’ve had the privilege in my young life to really not have many things impede me from doing what I want to do. I know that as I get older, that’s likely to change.

I don’t exactly have the answers here but I think it’s important to think about. When I let go of the arbitrary guidelines I’d set for myself, I found myself becoming a lot more chill. A lot happier. Some nights I might want to choose reading over sex and I don’t have an identity crisis about it. I might go weeks without wanting to write on my blog and I don’t second guess my ability as writer. And, one day, if I have to completely let something go, I know it won’t change who I am and who I was and what makes me, me. My life might just start to look different. And that might make me feel sad. But it doesn’t make me (less than) I used to be. It just makes me different.

How do you deal with feelings like this? Have you ever had to cope with a big identity shift, or even a short-term identity shift because you couldn’t do something or had to change the way you did something?


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