I know this is a strange subject to include in a 31 Days of Happy Things – but anything goes, and since it is something that makes me happy, so be it! Learning – about pretty much anything, but especially about art, culture and society, is something I love to do. I did an MA in Women’s Studies because I wanted to learn about it. Sociology is one of those subjects you have to enjoy to do, because even though it is interesting, the theory stuff is kind of boring! I don’t even remember that much of it, apart from the stuff I learnt in my chosen modules (and trust me, doing stuff like Cinema and Society and Gender and Society was fun!).

To me, learning is not just about hitting the books and taking in large volumes of information – it is also about enjoying what you’re learning, taking the time to understand it and practice it. A lot of what I’ve learnt has manifested in skills – such as research skills, editing skills and critical understanding. I’m not going to say that having an education gives you all these skills – mostly, education just proves to employers that you can work hard. Some people don’t like academic subjects, and I understand that, because I hated Science and Maths, and sometimes I hated English too, even if I love reading and writing. For me, learning is about being curious about the world, and what other people have to say or express, whether that is through the arts or through an essay.

Some of the recent things I’ve been interested in learning about have been creative things, rather than academic things. Things like photography, illustration, writing, writing memoir, crafts (sewing, metalworking, working with acrylic, etc), interior design. Maybe because I’ve spent about half of my life working on the academic stuff. I know I’ve said somewhere that my MA degree made me have a lightbulb moment about what I wanted to do – because working on my dissertation gave me the courage to start writing again. Some people write from a young age, and I did but not in a particularly serious way until I was a teenage (angst ridden poetry and lyrics), and then the writing and reading dried up when I went to University because I was working so hard and felt so tired. I don’t regret doing a Sociology degree because it made me more aware of all kinds of things, and made me question the status quo.

I’ve learnt things that have nothing much to do with studying – things like how to swim, how to touch type (it happened naturally one day, I just managed to teach myself), how to cook, how to strike a match (for so many years I was afraid to strike a match – I was 21 before I stopped being so afraid!). There are things I still need to learn, like how to get more freelance work, how to promote a crafting business, how to sew in a neat, straight line. There are some tough lessons I’ve had to learn, like learning to look after my money better and how to look after my health. I’m still learning how to edit a short story, what good dialogue looks and sounds like and how to motivate myself when I don’t have the energy. I’m learning right now how to write everyday even when I don’t like what I’ve written. Writing gets better with lots of practice.   People learn all the time – from their mistakes and from when things go right. I think life is one of those long lessons, when things happen all the time, when we have to change and grow and understand things better.

The best of my education has come from the public library… my tuition fee is a bus fare and once in a while, five cents a day for an overdue book.  You don’t need to know very much to start with, if you know the way to the public library.  ~ Lesley Conger

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