+44 7879 440170 helen@unlikelygenius.com

As I sit here surrounded by many a work in progress and a huge list of jobs to do I find myself pondering about all the things I am currently learning and how much I have taken on recently. And how I feel about this.

I have a demanding job running my own business, plus completing a range of freelance design projects, voluntary work for two charities, more sick family members than you can shake a stick at, an exercise regiment to keep up, and numerous to do lists. Yet I still find myself with this strong desire to learn more things. Both work-based and for self-interest. If only I could find yet more time and energy to do so.

A learning nature

I have always been an avid learner and a restless soul. Ever since I was young, when I took on every arty, sporty and musical extracurricular activity going.

This mentality has continued into adulthood, making me a true lifelong learner. An eternal student.

There are so many thoughts that whirl around my head daily and I am easily fascinated by a broad range of information and topics, often due to the amount I read. Due to this, I frequently register for new apps or online courses, do weekend courses, and order a small forests worth of books. If something piques my interest I will just do it. No sitting pondering whether to – I just crack on.

What’s so good about learning?

There is something magical about the feeling of being immersed in a new topic or skill. Exploring and testing the waters to see what happens, or learning about a topic from a new perspective. It keeps the mind occupied and away from anything that may stress my mind instead.

Then there is also the joyous feeling of accomplishment that comes with mastering something, even just a small part of an overall task (like remembering a word in a new language). A momentary firing of serotonin and endorphins that makes us feel great, powerful, ready got conquer the world. Or one teeny tiny part of it.

Being able to share the knowledge learnt or help others is great too. This was the part of lecturing that I loved (unfortunately everything else that came with that job overshadowed this). A lot of the crochet I have been doing is for others – either for charities or gifts. I enjoy being able to create something that others can benefit from or enjoy.

Possibly most importantly – continual learning keeps me busy. I have always been quite (hmm, extremely) restless and struggle to rest as much as I should. I am not someone that can just sit and watch tv for hours, or even sit through a film. I feel the need to be doing something. Crochet and reading are great for this as I have to sit to do it. It is the only thing that makes me able to just vegetate, recoup and watch some mindless trash, but feel productive at the same time.

A lot of people just don’t ‘get’ it. I often get questioned as to ‘why’ I am pursuing some random interest and asked where I find the time. But why the hell not? Spending half an hour learning something new instead of watching mindless drivel like Love Island and Eastenders is a much better use of my time. It is funny how often someone will comment to me that they don’t have time to read, yet in the next breath ask you if you watched X, Y and Z last night. I don’t feel like it is a case of finding the time, I want to do it and so these things become a natural part of my day.

It is remarkably surprising where some of the random skills I have learnt over the years come in too, that is, when I can dredge them from the recesses of my memory. I also learn a lot through my work – writing e-learning courses or content on the most random of topics. That is why I love what I do.

Is there a downside?

The main downside of this continual inquisitive nature is that I have become a master of taking too many things on (you’d think I’d learn…oh the irony), so some of them inevitably slide after an initial exploration or I can end up with cognitive overload.  I want to learn everything. So I often take on a hobby then rarely get chance to practice it and so give up. But the odd ones do stick longterm.

I also have the memory of a fish. I do not retain much of what I am learning, and so need to keep at whatever skill it is or it will quickly vamoosh into thin air. There are many wondrous insights and musings that fall in and out of my brain so that I can keep the vital kilobytes of space for the more crucial information, like what my favourite gin is in any given week. (Hellloooo Harahorn, mmm mmmm). But despite this significant frustration, I still love to learn.


So what have I been learning?

Finnish:
My latest whim has been to learn Finnish. Not an easy task as I am not a natural at languages (my A-level French tutor confirmed this when he said I ‘butchered the French language’). I am currently working for a Finnish company and have developed a love of Scandinavia after a trips to Norway, Finland and Denmark this year, plus and a bit of reading about their culture (A Year of Living Danishly and The Nearly Perfect People have a lot to answer for). So I have found myself wanting to learn a few words. There is no need as they speak better English than me, but I think it is nice to make the effort and my intrigue was enough to just make me do it.

However, it appears that Finnish is blinking hard to learn, but I have picked up some essentials (hello, thankyou, goodbye, etc) so I will try to stick with it. I was already attempting to learn Spanish and will no doubt get back to this, but my intentions have wandered somewhat as direction in life does.

Whittling:
My sister and I also recently did a day course in woodcarving with the lovely Giles Newman (check out his work, it is STUNNING) where we carved a pendant. This is one hobby that has gone by the wayside a bit in the last few months as I struggle to find the time to fit it in amongst work and other hobbies, but it is there is the background ready to go again. My fingers are ready for some more accidental splicing and dicing. It is so much harder than I ever imagined, especially having to think in 3D terms at all times, but hopefully I will soon create something that is actually wearable.

Pottery:
It turns out I was something of a natural on a pottery wheel, and it was great fun. We also got to paint pre-made ceramics and I was quite chuffed with my kingfisher I painted on a bowl.

Self-development:
I often read around various areas of self-development and self-care, such as emotional intelligence, resilience, pain management, etc. I am intrigued by how the body and mind work together (or often don’t) and how we can improve ourselves. It is so helpful to understand and recognise behaviours in yourselves and others, and put some context behind them.

Writing and work:
I am continually learning new skills in both writing and software. I have particularly been embracing learning how to develop my writing skills, trying new styles and how to write for UX (which even resulted in a brief learning of some html – seriously, no-one should let me near that stuff). I am also constantly developing more advanced skills in software such as Storyline to make sure that I am using the latest features and can suggest the best solutions to my customers. This gives me much more confidence in my selling and promoting my work.

Crochet:
I am developing my skills, trying new methods and learning about the right combination of hooks, yarn etc for specific projects and my tension. I have at least 10 projects on the go and am getting better with each make. But I still have a long way to go. The fact that I can make animals and scarves – 2 of my favourite things – means this hobby will be one that sticks around for sure.

Running a business
A necessity that obviously arose this last year, but it is surprising how much time learning all the day-to-day management takes up. I have definitely started to go with ‘learn what you need to, let the professionals do the rest’. That’s what accountant and financial advisors are there for. And there are much more fun things to learn about than VAT and corporation tax.

These are just a few topics that pop into mind, (not to mention the amount of time I have put into learning about rabbits and their care in the last year).

But there is so much to learn and we really shouldn’t need a reason to do so.

​I will never get through everything on my list. But I will damn well try.

Soon to be dabbled with or semi-dabblement currently in progress:

  • Astronomy and all that ‘spacey stuff’. My semi-stalking of Brian Cox is helping with this, and the telescope that has been sat in the spare room for 18 months needs using!
  • More languages. I wish I was fluent in another language. I never will be fluent but if I could get by in another country with their language I would love that. I will probably keep altering which language depending on where we book our hols.
  • More craft and textile based skills – learning to use a sewing machine, glass art, Tunisian crochet, woodwork. The list goes on.
  • Copywriting and SEO – defo a work related learning that would help me to progress.
  • The depths of the ocean and marine biology – my obsession with the sea continues.

Write 52: Week 13
​Theme: A few of my favourite things