I remember trying to read when I was five years old. I couldn’t wait to learn! One after another, I figured out the sounds of the letters. I begged for information, and received it from anyone that would offer it: parents, grandparents, and my sister, Brenda, who was just one year older than me. Once, my mother found me weeping in frustration as I struggled through a book. “This doesn’t make any sense,” I told her. I was sounding out the word K-N-E-W, and it sounded, to me, like “canoe.” I knew what a canoe was, at whatever young age I was, but I did not understand how it fit in that sentence!
I have almost always loved to learn. I went through just a moment in kindergarten when I deliberately colored outside of the lines, as that’s what the little girl sitting next to me was doing. There were a few of my teen years when it was much more fun to make trouble than to make good grades. It seemed appropriate, at that time, to “play dumb” in front of boys. And I have to admit, by the time I got out of high school, I thought I’d learned all I wanted or needed to.
That didn’t last long. When school learning bored me, I read. When I’d gone through all of our bookshelves, and didn’t have a library book at hand, I’d page through the encyclopedias, and the annual editions that came as a bonus with the set of encyclopedias, and Mom’s old collection of Books of Knowledge.
I taught myself to knit and crochet. I made crude attempts at quilting and embroidery. I learned several card and board games. I wrote [bad] poetry. I drew. As a young mother, I often had craft projects going. I learned to cook. I took a vegetarian cooking class with my mother-in-law. Then, a girlfriend and I took an evening art class at the high school.
When my second daughter was four months old, I enrolled at the junior college. That did it! College was a thousand times better than high school. I loved it! I studied Art, but also Literature, Poetry, and Writing. I took a few swimming classes, then a self defense class and a circuit training class. I studied Geology, Biology, Astronomy and Physical Science. I loved Art History. Never again did I think I’d had my fill of learning.
Raising a family, starting a business, several moves…these things sometimes slowed me down, but never stopped me. I earned an Associate’s Degree, then a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and, when I was forty years old, a Master of Fine Arts Degree. I had a minor in English Literature, a certificate in Women’s Studies and another in Creative Writing. I was done with school, but I wasn’t finished learning. I don’t think I ever will be!
It was never about the credentials, or the degrees. It was the knowledge I was after. I still prefer books, whether fiction or non-fiction, that have something to teach me. I am still hungry for new ideas, and new ways of doing things. I’ve become a [slightly] better quilter; I love trying out new crochet patterns. I am continually trying out new methods of art-making.
I have, sometimes, a hard time sticking with a project, and I get easily bored. I’ve figured out that I like the learning much better than the follow-through. I’ve resigned myself to that, just as I’ve accepted the boxes and totes filled with unfinished projects
Most recently, I filled several pages with notes on the Hawaiian language. I’ve become familiar with their alphabet, and how words are divided into syllables, which is key to correct pronunciation. That might be enough; it’s not as enticing when I’m not presented with road signs to practice on. That’s okay. There will always be something else I can learn.