Stay­ing young by con­stantly learn­ing

We can learn new stuff all the time by tak­ing up hobby classes

New Straits Times - - Viewpoint - The writer was a lec­turer at Univer­siti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days en­joy­ing life as it is

MARK Twain once said, “Any­one who stops learn­ing is old, whether 20 or 80. Any­one who keeps learn­ing stays young. The great­est thing you can do is keep your mind young.”

I agree with him com­pletely, or else why would I be mak­ing a 1½ hour re­turn jour­ney each Tues­day night for 10 weeks just to learn some­thing new?

Leav­ing the warm fire on the hearth and driv­ing for miles on wind­ing coun­try roads with no street lamps on cold nights with the risk of ice on the road, and frost on the wind­screen, would cer­tainly de­ter any­one from mak­ing the jour­ney.

But, then again, pur­su­ing part­time hobby classes of your choice is an ex­cite­ment in it­self. I have been con­tem­plat­ing sign­ing up for such classes but the sched­ule didn’t suit me be­fore.

This time round, the hours are per­fect and so, I signed up for an in­tro­duc­tory course in hair and beauty at the Lim­er­ick Col­lege of Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion in Cap­pamore.

When­ever I tell my friends or fam­ily mem­bers that I have cho­sen such a course, they chuckle. The next thing I know, I am not short of mod­els to prac­tise on.

In the 1960s and 70s go­ing to the UK to study hair-dress­ing was all the rage. My neigh­bour dreamt about it. My sis­ter dreamt about it. It cer­tainly cost a lot of money.

I re­mem­ber those who grad­u­ated and opened their own hair sa­lons. It was the talk of the town and you had to make an ap­point­ment for an over­seas-trained hair­cut which would cost four times the go­ing rate.

It is nice to be on the other end of the spec­trum. In­stead of stand­ing in front of a class, I am now a stu­dent again. Putting the notes to­gether in a file re­minds me of my univer­sity days.

Car­ry­ing the file re­minds me of the stu­dents whom I used to teach. It is lovely to be with other stu­dents who are friendly and help­ful. Most of all, there are no ex­am­i­na­tions and that’s the best part.

There are many fac­tors that con­trib­ute to the joy of learn­ing.

I used to be sus­pi­cious about dis­em­bod­ied heads. To an over­ac­tive imag­i­na­tion, they look spooky. Imag­ine such a head look­ing at you in a dimly lit room.

For the first time I can work on a hair­dress­ing train­ing head with­out fear.

There is no pres­sure to per­form and noth­ing to mem­o­rise. I can learn new stuff all the time with­out the anx­i­ety.

I re­mem­ber join­ing a com­mu­nity drama group and I had to learn St Joan’s so­lil­o­quy in Bernard Shaw’s play. Be­fore long I was hav­ing night­mares about for­get­ting my lines on stage.

The lec­turer fac­tor is very im­por­tant. Geral­dine the lec­turer is pas­sion­ate about her teach­ing.

I can sense her en­thu­si­asm and her gen­uine in­ter­est in pass­ing on her knowl­edge to her stu­dents, no holds barred.



She is also im­mac­u­lately dressed and I of­ten tell my­self that any prod­uct is as good as the pack­ag­ing.

The el­e­ment of suc­cess drives the stu­dent to want to achieve more. Be­cause we do things hands on, there is this feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment.

Of course, what­ever I em­u­late is far from per­fec­tion, but the re­al­i­sa­tion that “hey, I can do this too!” evokes a warm, fuzzy feel­ing within.

There is this en­vi­ron­ment of free­dom that lib­er­ates. Be­cause we are adult learn­ers and come from all walks of life, we carry with us dif­fer­ent ideas and cre­ativ­ity. Un­like an au­to­cratic style of teach­ing and learn­ing, we could ask ques­tions and try new things.

The last thing we need is to be in a straight-laced jacket where there can be only one ex­pla­na­tion and one way of do­ing things.

I am also al­lowed to use the cam­era to take pho­tos so I can re­mem­ber bet­ter.

As this is a be­gin­ner’s course, I find the tasks man­age­able. What I learn is mean­ing­ful to me and I want to re­turn for more each week.

Imag­ine be­ing in a class where ev­ery­thing is above my head or worse still where ev­ery­thing is so el­e­men­tary that I get bored.

I re­mem­ber go­ing for a class on pho­tog­ra­phy be­cause I wanted to learn how to use my DSLR cam­era bet­ter. But the course was pitched at a very el­e­men­tary level and the teacher did not have a DSLR cam­era her­self. So, I never went back af­ter the first les­son.

When this course fin­ishes, I’ll sign up for yet an­other. There is a plethora of cour­ses and one is spoilt for choice — from black­smithing to build­ing a bird house. I might take up the Ir­ish lan­guage be­cause it is such a beau­ti­ful lan­guage. Or I might take up Span­ish in the hope of walk­ing the Camino de San­ti­ago.

What­ever it is, I know I will not stop learn­ing.

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