th[8]In the last few months, I’ve learned: how to remove metadata from files; how to work with Track Changes in Word; downloaded and learned my way around Windows 10; dipped my toes into Excel; and finally (!) unzipped some photo files sent over a year ago by a friend. These may seem like small beer to some folks. To me, at the time, they seemed like major hurdles. (Turns out they weren’t.)

As I faced the necessity of doing each of these tasks in turn, I had a moment of panic. My thoughts ranged from “I’m not smart enough to learn this'”  to “I shouldn’t have to do this” to “I’m so far behind other people, it’s embarrassing.” Those thoughts didn’t last long, and for all of the new skills, I had resources, from a quick Google search to my handy Microsoft Office 2013 for Dummies, to You Tube videos, to tons of online forums.

But I had to cope, before proceeding, with the initial shame–the shame of not knowing, the same of feeling ignorant. Years ago, I used to let that shame get in the way of acquiring valuable knowledge. It’s hard to admit you’re the only one in the crowd, the class, the audience who doesn’t know what everybody else seems to know. But I realized admitting you don’t know is the only way to get that knowledge, to get in the loop, and most crucially, to build the foundation for even further learning. And that’s the terrible bind I see some people in. They have gotten so far behind esp. in technical skills, that, while they could catch up, it becomes more and more difficult and emotionally threatening for them to contemplate. And their biggest hindrance is often shame. You have to admit that you don’t know or understand something, in order to learn, and some people just can’t bring themselves to do that. They’ll fight to the death to save face. I never, ever want to be in that place. So, I push past the shame, the fear, the resistence and the resentment. I may be a little slow and clunky about it, but often, the task turns out to be oh, so simple, and then I have a moment of feeling a bit foolish. Silly me, why ever was I so reluctant? Nothing to it. And once I’ve pushed through to the end, the result is always the same–exuberance, joy, added confidence, and most of all, as I said, the skills to move on to the next learning challenge. To me, there’s nothing in the world so joyous as learning something new, esp. a new skill. And that’s a darn good thing, since that’s what life will forever be about.


About Lida Bushloper

writer and poet
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