After graduating from university in my early 20s, I promised myself I’d never write another paper or exam. I was wrong. I started writing research papers in my 40s just for my own satisfaction, because I was interested in things and wanted to study them to the nth degree, and then went back and got my MA when I was 50 because I wanted to work my brain really hard, among other things. Some people have a need to work out physically (not me) and others can’t go to sleep till they’ve had a great mental workout (me.) At 22 or 33 I never knew that about myself.
I wonder what drives us to do brain work.
When I was in a very difficult part of my life, as these things go, with kids at the leaving home stage and a mother getting to the needing care stage, I made a life-changing decision. I decided to get a graduate degree.
You might wonder why I would choose this path, the path of academia, but I had simply discovered that working hard with my brain had given me a sense of competence and control that I wasn’t finding in the rest of my life and I wanted to feel competent and in control just then. My world was changing and I could no longer take on all the problems my loved ones were having to cope with. I was no longer in control of my little patch of the world.
Some people join gyms or run. I knew I had to study. I had to learn new things and find out where they fit into my mental geography. I had to weigh, measure and compare ideas and see how they could find application in my life.
I guess it’s no surprise that I chose to take my degree in counselling, since it was in the realm of the mind that I was feeling the loss of control. I wanted to expand my knowledge and understanding of human behavior and things about the human brain’s workings that I didn’t know, and learn what the great psychologists saw as the way we work and think and feel and relate, and how their views differed and what was true for me. I gave myself over to studying for two years, and at the end of it I had a Master’s Degree and I also had a mind that I could rely on for clear thinking and deeper understanding of the human condition.
I’m someone who needs to exercise her mind. Some of you jog. I don’t. I solve problems when I can, whether in my work or at leisure. It makes me feel good.
And the bonus is, I became more effective in my life and can pass on that knowledge to others.