Learning Actually

Do you remember how you felt the last time you demonstrated you knew how to do something and showed it to someone you cared about? You might have become an expert with new software at work and had to show your peers. Maybe you aced a test in a difficult class. Heck, even if you can now set the microwave clock in front of your spouse with having to google it first, didn’t it feel good? That’s the love of learning.

Learning is Universal

Our courtship with learning began before we were aware of it and it defines our lives to this day. The rush of finding out something new and valuable connects people across age, ethnicity or beliefs. Little things, like figuring out the best way to avoid morning traffic, and big things, like earning a certification or degree, all release dopamine and makes us want to have the experience over and over again.

Girl playing chess
That’s right. I see you and now that I know this new move, I’m coming for you.

The love of learning extends to our loved ones as well. Parents the world over recall the joy of seeing their children reach learning milestones such as walking, talking or how to castle properly in chess. We see the joy and sense of accomplishment in their eyes and we know exactly how great that feels because we’ve experienced it ourselves.

Teachers, the tireless heroes that they are, selflessly foster our love of learning, hoping to see sparks in a student’s eyes when they discover biology, algebra or history. Even students who are bored by the current topic may learn how to draw or write fiction while ignoring the details of the war of 1812.

Learning is Rewarding

Falling in love with learning something new follows a pattern, similar to dating. First, we see the topic or subject from across the room, thinking “That’s cute. What’s their story?” Then we meet, perhaps introduced by a friend. “So, um, you wanna go somewhere we can talk?” Sparks fly. Fireworks explode. Several months later we’ve committed to long-term memory and a long-term relationship with the “Rules Against Perpetuity.”

Long road
Sure, it’s a long road. We’ll get there together.

Now, of course, some learning will make us work for their affection. Career subjects like the law, sales or plumbing equally require a longer courtship and determined effort. Along the way, there will be the first kiss: “Sweet! That’s way pipes are shaped like an ‘S'”

We’ll discover idiosyncracies: “Oh, torts. Your trespasses are adorable!”

We’ll hit a bump in the road: “Wait, why are you being so difficult?”

We’ll have memorable successes: “42. The answer is 42.”

And after all that time, dedication and love, we have something that has lifelong value. We’ve learned.

A Toast to Learning

People sometimes say “I’m full of useless knowledge.” Usually, because while they can name the starting lineup of the 1983 White Sox, they struggle to name every state capital or how to say “I’m going to the library*” in French. However, loving to learn means never having to say you’re sorry (Forgive me. Couldn’t resist. I’ll be here all week, Tip your servers!) So learn what you can when you can.

Here’s to learning and to all the parents, friends, siblings, teachers, mentors, and coaches who have been there the whole time. And here’s to you, the lifelong student. I got nothing but love for you all. Happy Valentine’s Day!

*”Je vais à la bibliothèque.”

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