I left school, but it hasn’t left me

Time passes slowly when learning new habits

Afterthoughts: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

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I left school almost six years ago now, and university finished up about 6 months ago. While I did “well” in both, it always felt like a chore. As I get acclimated to an adult life, I find myself with the habits that I wished I had when I was in the education system. This notion was crystallised by Marc Geffen in the tweet below:

The school and university experience involved readings, lectures and classes, assignments. When I was in the education system, these things were a drag to do. On the whole, I was motivated not by what I was learning, but in chasing the good grade. Now that I am out, my motivation is intrinsic versus extrinsic.

These days, I look forward to my readings. The readings come from a smorgasbord of online publications whose newsletter I subscribe to including, but not limited to: Literary Hub, Pocket, FiveThirtyEight, Aeon, Axios, Quillete, and a number of personal newsletters from interesting people. This selection of email subscriptions spans a slew of domains like technology, politics, sports, academia, and literature. Given the abundance of content online, I take my cue from professors. In this case, I have taken it to be interesting people on Twitter who have a background in something I am interested in. If you put aside all the online readings, I have found in myself excess enthusiasm and energy for the good old book. According to my Goodreads, as of June 14, I have read a total of 22 books in 2020. When you consider that I averaged reading 4.7 books per year in the 2010s, this new rate is astronomical. To add insult to my poor reading experience, 90% of the books I read in the 2010s were compulsory i.e. for school. I read at most, 5 books for pleasure in that period. It is shameful and I am not proud of that figure. Of the 22 books, there is a healthy variety: fiction and non-fiction, philosophy and personal development, business and arts. The readings I find myself doing are expansive in a way that school or university could not compare – what’s more, I find so much joy in them.

I go and attend lectures and classes with more regularity now than when I had a full course load during university. The most obvious form this comes in is podcasts. I am not a podcast fiend in the slightest, in fact, I find the popular interview format of podcasts tiresome and unlistenable. But I have found a format and style I like, and a selection of podcasts to which I stan. In addition, I have been taking a bunch of online classes through platforms like Masterclass and Skillshare. While the depth of these classes is shallower than in school, the breadth of what I am learning is infinitely greater.

I haven’t thought of them as assignment, but all the writing and learning in public that I am doing would constitute as such. Across the readings and lectures, I have found myself taking meticulous notes … notes that would put my old-self to shame. I told myself that I didn’t want to be just a passive bystander on the internet, I wanted to become a creator. So I use those notes to enrich the things I am creating. How I have been doing that is through my writing and a willingness to share what I have learnt in public through my various channels. Each piece of content I put out there is a checkpoint for my progress, in that way, it functions very similar to an assignment.

I have fully onboarded into the school of life, I just can’t believe it’s taken me six months to realise. I suppose a lot of the emotional turmoil in readings, lectures, and assignments during school was that they were compulsory. We had a degree of choice regarding what we studied, but there was in fact an illusion of choice, we still had to study something. In hindsight, it was probably that attitude soured a lot of the school experience for me. But now that there is nothing I have to do, I am enjoying the process of reading, attending lectures, and doing assignments infinitely more.

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