Matthew Munson: Learning is exciting, no matter how old you are

Matthew and Bryan

I’m now officially back at university, just one day a week this term. Being part-time, I do three modules in the course of a year, and I did the first two before Christmas. Now I’m just doing one – poetry – and I approached it with a little trepidation. I have very little expertise in and knowledge of any kind of poetry, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The tutor had recommended a book – The Making of a Poem – which is certainly introducing me to a lot of new poetry extracts in different forms, from blank verse to sonnets. I’m reading everything, and perhaps understanding a portion of it; that’s a step in the right direction, as far as I’m concerned. Our lecturer – she’s a professor, you know – is incredibly passionate about the topic, which is great. Without realising it, she reassures me with her confidence and love of poetry. We’re certainly having our minds stretched.

Going to university, I wanted to be stretched outside of my comfort zone, and it’s certainly succeeding. I mean that as no criticism, but instead as a positive. I like being challenged and, although I love science-fiction and fantasy fiction more than anything else, I need to be exposed to different opinions and subjects as well. Two of the three modules so far have definitely taken me in directions I wouldn’t have willingly studied by myself, so it’s doing its job. It’s nice to be able to show that to Bryan as well, that you can learn from topics that aren’t your favourites – you certainly shouldn’t shut your brain off just because you’re doing something that’s not your natural inclination.

I find that I’ve missed my university routine. It’s nice to carve out some time for my own learning, and to use my brain in different ways. I love being a parent and spending time with my son, but I also love marking out a bit of time to stretch myself. It’s taken me 24 years to go to university, after I initially started at 18 (when I lasted three days) and then again at 20 (when I lasted six weeks – I should have learned the first time I wasn’t ready), and now I’m ready to stretch my wings.

Trying to balance everything – work, university, and family life – isn’t easy, I’m perfectly happy to admit. I want to give Bryan my time and attention, because he deserves my focus … and, of course, there are times when he himself won’t want my attention. Right now, as I write this week’s column, he’s talking to his siblings on face-time and asking their advice on what to wear for his upcoming non-school-uniform day. That delights me, and for us adults to be able to make that happen, it’s a privilege.

I also want to mark out a little time for myself, and university certainly helps with that. I need to make the effort to do little things that are valuable to me. I have responsibilities, and of course they come first, but having time for fun is also important – and I really want to prove to Bryan that it’s possible to do both. I’m not always great at getting the balance right, but I certainly try.

I find myself looking ahead to the end of my degree, in six short years. Gulp. It’s important to be ambitious, and knowing that I can’t do full-time studies because of everything in my life, and I don’t get intimidated by the time scales very often (just occasionally). I’ll only be 48 when I graduate, while still leaves nearly two decades before I’m meant to retire, so what do I want to do with my degree? Do another degree – a Masters? It’s a thought, as it’s only a year, and use my studies to help me really improve my writing and see if I can get a book accepted by a different publisher. It’s already helped me improve my writing style and I can only (I hope) improve.

Learning is exciting, no matter how old you are, and we should all embrace the opportunity to learn something new in every decade of our lives, no matter how we learn – it keeps our brains active!

1 Comment

  1. Learning, Matthew, is something we do throughout our lives. Attending university is but one area for this purpose. I am 76 and still learning because I am both open-minded and curious. The Internet is our greatest aid in this regard.

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