An academic mindset, for me, couldn’t start in a classroom. I know that now, but when I was a child there couldn’t have been a teacher in the world able to implant the lasting importance of classroom duty. While my early elementary teachers gave me an unparalleled foundation, I know now my earliest surviving education came from nature.
As a child, I loved the mountains; fishing, hiking, and camping balled up into one week was an adventure that couldn’t be formally understood as a child. Yet, an over the shoulder glance of this time leaves the image appearing closer than expected. Existing in the wild for a week lit the smallest of matches, but provided a fire to be carried into the classroom where I could absorb books detailing the human connection with nature. I still find nature inspiring and therapeutic to this day, leaving it seldom far from my education.
(Photographed by Teah Renken, friend, hiking trip, 2015)
In jumping ahead to my early teen years, a break in my learning curve happened. I literally broke my left femur in half while playing an innocent game of pick-up basketball. Whether or not it was a learning experience at the time, it would certainly come to be one. While most of my ailments I consider to be mental, this one was definitively physical. Knowledge acquired during and shortly thereafter this event would be to never doubt a touch of luck. Meaning if I had been born a generation earlier chances were good I could’ve been crippled.
(Photo Courtesy of Salina Regional Health Center; my broken left femur)
With any heightened learning comes failure. I nearly failed out of college my first go-around. It was not pleasant. It was embarrassing. It was unsympathetic. Feeling like a leech to society because of laziness and indifference was a dirty feeling. And I realize there are greater problems people have encountered, and I hate pulling out a petty sob story on myself, truly. This has to be included in my timeline of education though, for it relates directly. Luckily I overcame this act through reflection and personal direction. The direction may still not be true to all points, but it has kept me in good academic standing in the four years of college since.
While patience may not be the best word an industrious student should live by, it is a great virtue to have especially when attempting to acquire a new skill. Being out two years of college I had time to pick up fly-fishing and ran into one of the best learning experiences of my life. I thought it would be peaceful and relaxing, not frustrating and taxing. I discovered that I could put in an inordinate amount of time into something and gain zero ground, zero. However, the love of the hobby was still there and eventually it began to roll over into results (minor results, mind you). Patience and persistence in an area that is desirable to someone almost always pays off.
(caught and released)
The fifth and final step, also the most recent, in my personal learning experience has been a rekindled liking for books, especially novels. It was eye-opening. Reading had been stressed to me at a young age, and as a child of course I liked to read. That got lost somewhere in the rush, I’m not sure where. I picked up Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky a couple years back (I have no idea why I choose that book). I’ve read books that I’ve enjoyed more since then, but I consider that to be my gateway book, so to speak. The books that I read give me a better sense of reflection, and I find that to be valuable.