Friday, September 16, 2011

Marking Progress

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”   ~Thomas Alva Edison

When I was a schoolgirl, then college student, I looked forward to September with great anticipation because it meant that I could go back to school--and learn!  Most of my summers were spent sitting under trees, in the shade, reading book after book after book.   (I also developed an early fixation with school supplies which evolved into an obsession with office supplies, but that's another story.)  I never minded getting homework, and I was the eager beaver raising my hand to answer questions.  My grades were excellent--despite a year of a 70s educational experiment called "self-taught geometry"--and standardized tests never bothered me.  While some friends felt bored, confined or frustrated by the classroom, I felt stimulated, free and encouraged.  School officially ended when I was awarded by B.A.  in May 1984, and began my first job (in book publishing) in June 1984.  There have been a few continuing education classes here and there, but I never went on to get a graduate degree, and I regret that.  However, life has provided me with many learning opportunities and many tests which I never expected to have to pass.  (Nor was the chance to study for those tests offered.)  

My desire to learn has grown, not lessened, with the years.  Firmly planted in middle-age, I have lived long enough to realize that I probably won't learn any new languages or musical instruments.    Yet, I was blessed with an affinity for language, and managed to attain a level of fluency in French, German and Italian.  With a bit (okay, quite a lot) of practice, I might be able to speak one or all of these languages again.  Another gift, given to me by my parents and my DNA, is my musical ability.  I began studying classical guitar at age 9.  Eventually I learned a lot of folk music, enough to accompany myself while singing.  At age 15 I started playing the violin, and did well enough hold the rank of first chair, second violin section of my university orchestra in my senior year.  Two years ago I studied traditional Irish fiddle for 4 months, and I was good at it!  Now I'm thinking of taking voice lessons.

I won't ever be able to practice yoga, due to the negligence of a personal trainer in 2001 and four subsequent major back surgeries which fused parts of my spine and both sides of my sacroiliac.  But since I finally conquered my addiction to smoking, I can go back to the one sport at which I excelled as a child--swimming!  And, thankfully, I can walk.  If walking  had not become my sole source of physical exercise, I never would have discovered my personal treasured parts of Central Park.  

When Labor Day came this year, the familiar buzz of "time for something new" started bouncing around in me.  There are joys to summer, but they are all to fleeting, and I am a hothouse flower who needs air conditioning and plenty of sunscreen  to survive.  I think the best part of being enrolled in the School of Life is that I can choose my own curriculum.  Someone reminded me today that how you spend your time is how you spend your life.  I'm still eager to be the best possible student, but I'm also the professor and the president of Me U.