You can keep learning.
Here is a funny thing that I didn't anticipate: Once school was over, I had a bit of an identity crisis. I wasn't anticipating this because, what is school if not preparation for what comes after school? But truth be told, I loved being a student. I loved being in a mess of learning and other people learning and walking around campuses with their stately trees and hiding in old libraries full of musty books. I loved lectures and talking to professors and meeting professionals who thought I had "promise." I got an actual adrenaline rush from stapling a finished paper. Bonus points if it was so fat that I had to use the fancy industrial stapler. (Dork!)
I was really comfortable in school, and, honestly, I was good at it. High school was breezy, and I was your average over-committed teenager. College required some mental reorganizing, but once I got the hang of it, it was life changing. There were extraordinary learning experiences during those years. Then grad school came right away. Why? Probably because I didn't know what else to do! But I felt so me flitting from my student job to my classes and pumping caffeine into my body on-the-hour-every-hour so I could power through a paper each night, late into the night.
Then I put on my last tasseled cardboard hat. I was thrust full-force into that terrible, horrible, awful, nerve-wracking, frustrating thing known as a job search. I didn't think I was going to survive that, and when I did, it was only to actually enter the workforce--and if anyone can figure that place out, well, I salute you.
I walked a very stale line for awhile, tip-toed even into feelings of uselessness and aimlessness. It was sort of like I didn't know what to do without a student catalog telling me what my goals should be. I had so heavily relied on the step-by-step process of education, the senses of accomplishment and closure that came with each passing semester, that suddenly the vastness and opportunity of adult life was too overwhelming for me.
It wasn't that I didn't realize I could keep learning. Of course I could, and pursuing knowledge for the soul purpose of pursuit is beautiful and liberating. There are always books to be read, places in the world to explore, languages to study, and arithmetic to remember so you can convert the stinkin' fractions in your recipes. Of course we can keep learning.
For me, the real gorgeous part of the lesson was living to learn--to see that learning is living. We can learn ourselves, we can learn others, we can learn the unique ways of the world, and all of this is quite tangible, useful knowledge. Our process of learning should not define us because we should always be learning. Maybe this blog started from the same rush of stapling my papers together: Here is what I've seen and learned and think! You don't have to be a student to study, to find joy in discovering something new and telling about it. Never stop learning, never stop sharing what you've learned.