They say that we older people need to keep our minds active, keep learning things. We are supposed to learn a foreign language, do crossword puzzles, or practice the piano.
I’ve always resisted learning things just because I’m “supposed” to; hence my less than stellar career in algebra and my brief adventure with calculus. (I learned enough to pass the final exam; then I promptly forgot everything.)
Something has to interest me. Otherwise, I lose motivation and my attention wanders. I admit it, this happened to me with photography. I got a camera, I bought Photoshop, I took a class. But it seemed like everyone had already taken so many photos, why would the world need more of me? Plus, I couldn’t tell the difference between a really special photo and one that was boring. So now I only take photos of my family.
One thing I’ve recently learned is how to play pickleball. It’s honestly a pretty easy game to pick up. It can be hard to be really good. But I do not aspire to that. I just want to have fun with a group of people at my local pickleball club.
The same could be said of my golf game. . . except I’m not learning anything new. I have played golf, off and on, for many years, and my ambition now is just to have fun and not get worse.
I also learned about foreign policy in recent years, because my wife and I have been doing a program called “Big Decisions in Foreign Policy” for the Foreign Policy Association. We just finished this year’s eight-week program that covered China, Latin America, Iran, Global Famine, and other topics.
Sometimes I think I am learning enough medical information to become a doctor. Ten years ago I knew nothing of medicine. I have now gone to the cardiologist and they have taught me about medications like metoprolol. I have spent hours discussing cortisone, prednisone, knee surgery, hip surgery, and other orthopedic issues with doctors, nurses, physician assistants, friends, and family.
My guess is that by now you also know a thing or two about medicine. Or are you learning something completely different?
I am now learning about the history of the 1960s. I agreed to do a program for our senior learning center on the subject. It’s interesting to me because I lived through the era, but I was in middle school and high school and I was in college at the time, and I was only interested in my own little world, not the rest of the world.
So I had no interest in what was happening in Selma, Alabama, or Jackson, Mississippi. Of course she had heard of Cuba. And I read about Watts. And the specter of Vietnam hung over all of us. But my mind was focused on whether Kathy liked Bobby better than me (it turned out she did), and if I’d be on the baseball team (I did, but mostly as a bench warmer), and how I’d fare. on my SATs (good enough to get into my second choice college, but not my first).
But now I find that the world we grew up in holds a lot of interest to me. What was going on behind the scenes at the Kennedy White House? What was going through Lyndon Johnson’s mind as he wrestled with the Vietnam problem? How did the civil rights movement achieve so much, only to destroy itself in hate and violence?
On top of all that, some of my friends are trying to get me interested in ChatGPT. I resist, however, since I like my relationships to be human, and I already have a love/hate relationship with our Google Assistant.
Finally, I know that I still have a few things to learn about marriage and children. But those are topics for another post. Right now I have enough to keep my mind awake and alert.