Continuing Education

I am a perpetual student. I love to learn. I was the kid who enjoyed school and although sometimes I procrastinated, I usually got my stuff done on time. I was not what you would call an overachiever however. I recall telling my doctoral advisor that I fully admitted to doing just enough to get by with good grades. He said, "Well that's refreshing. Just think what you could do if you actually applied yourself?"

Me and a fellow doctoral student in an excavation unit at the Blue Creek Site in Northern Belize, Central America.

Me and a fellow doctoral student in an excavation unit at the Blue Creek Site in Northern Belize, Central America.

I started studying anthropology on my own when I was 11. It was pre-internet, 1981 and I had to get all my info from the public library. My folks were great about taking me there all the time. I would check out as many books as allowed and then come home and type notes from the books, on our PC. Remember those 5 1/4 floppys? I had a LOT of them dedicated to notes from books. 

When I was in high school I had some access to the community college library and that opened my world even more. 

I studied anthropology and archaeology in college and earned a B.A. and an M.A. and then went on to work on my PhD, which I never finished by the way. I've been ABD (All But Dissertation) since about 2002 and that status will not change.

Since then however, I have "gone back to school" in various ways to learn lots of new things that kind link back to anthropology and archaeology as they are things that, in general, are ancient arts. 

When my children were toddlers, I got accepted into a program to become a Master Gardener for our county. I had been gardening on my own for years but learning all the real science of it, all about disease, how to diagnose and treat, more about composting and propagating, etc. was really fun and as part of my commitment to being a Master Gardener, I did a lot of community outreach and education. 

My boys picking peas in our kitchen garden, 2011.

My boys picking peas in our kitchen garden, 2011.

About three years ago I got very interested in learning how to spin. Not bikes in a gym, but fiber on a spindle. My friend Dru, told me about her spinning class on Craftsy.com. I signed up and took it and a new door opened up for me. Now I was not just spinning fiber but dyeing it as well, starting with using plants which I grew in my garden. (see the connection here?)

Supported spindle and Navajo spindle (with the cop of fiber).

Supported spindle and Navajo spindle (with the cop of fiber).

Woad (plant and powdered dyestuff).

Woad (plant and powdered dyestuff).

From there I learned to knit and then I was truly addicted. I took every class I could get my hands on about knitting. Every technique I could learn, I attempted, with varying degrees of success but I did it! Just this month I've taken a class on slip stitch knitting with Faina Goberstein, a class on entrelac knitting and a class on intarsia. 

In January of this year I took a multi week companion class with the author of The Modern Natural Dyer, Kristine Vejar at her lovely studio/shop A Verb for Keeping Warm in Berkeley. 

I started designing seriously only a few months ago and already have gotten four designs accepted with publications this year. 

The point of all of this is not to toot my own horn. The point is that I never want to stop learning. I believe it's what keeps my mind growing and active. I feel like I've only just touched the tip of the iceberg in all this fiber business and I have so very much still to learn. That excites me. It's the same way I feel when I've found a great new series of books and I'm just starting number 1. 

Countless studies have shown that continuing to learn, keeping the mind not only active but challenged, keeps people mentally healthy and contributes to longevity. There are even some studies suggesting continuing education can stave off dementia. 

To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.
— Buddha

What do you feel about continuing education? Are there things you study on your own, topics you like to read about, things you are obsessed with learning more about? Do you believe it's important to always be learning; to always be the student?