The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The brain is a muscle

books and lightIn my later thirties I returned to college to study computer animation. The information overload was intense after years of making wooden toys and leading a relatively simple life. I also had never used a computer before. This was a bit of a disadvantage.

Sometimes I could feel my brain almost “sweating” as it struggled with the new concepts and ideas. A lot of information went straight over my head. Having been quite an able student at school and university I discovered that the slippery slope to the bottom of the class was short and swift. The gap between me and my classmates widened at a terrifying speed.

One day I overheard a classmate whisper,
“This is when Fiona will burst into tears, again.”
There were tears. Of rage this time.

It was the end of the first term and I had four weeks of holidays ahead. Determined to fight back, I secured a large loan and bought my own computer. A simple 486 computer cost £3,000 in those days. This was in the era before Windows, when programmes ran on the DOS platform. So I bought a book called ‘Vodoo DOS’ and locked myself away for the month to learn at my own rate. My tutor also gave me a copy of the software that we were using, slipped inside a magazine. This would have got him into trouble if he was caught as the software cost thousands too.

I can still remember sitting in The Rat Room and that wonderful moment when everything started to click into place.

Last night we were invited to a great supper party in the village and met up with J who is in his mid thirties. Five weeks age he returned to university to take a four year science degree as a mature student. He described the horror of the first couple of weeks, when the information just seemed to wash around him. His epiphany came much earlier than mine had and he was now enjoying the course.
”The brain is a muscle after all,” explained his chirpy wife.

Walking home at midnight we wondered whether it might be a good idea to invest time in training our brains again.

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  1. The key is to never stop learning. Since I left formal education nearly 10 years ago I’ve continually applied my brain to learn new things, be it programming languages, systems, nutritional theories and any number of other topics that just “interested me” even though they may have been of next to no use to me on a practical level.

    Like any other ‘muscle’, if you stop using it, it shrinks to cover just what you need. It takes considerable effort to condition it back again should you wish to learn new things. The best advice is never stop!

  2. Diane Epps

    That’s good news Pamela, I speak English, Italian and get by in Spanish and French. So maybe my brain will not turn to mush too soon.

  3. I read somewhere once that research has shown that people who speak more than one language throughout their lives have significantly better concentration skills than those who only speak one language. Certainly my mum is a good example of that although I’m not sure how much is to do with the languages and how much is down to living with my sister and her three children. All 3 are very bright and take no prisoners! So I’m hoping that speaking 4 languages should keep me on my toes, especially when I find myself in situations where sentences drift between French and Spanish and i’m being asked to interpret! Maybe it’s time to learn another language too, now where would I like to visit …?

  4. Being a lecturer I love mature students. They usually have such a great attitude and really want to learn, rather than just being at Uni because they don’t know what else to do!

    I myself could do with some brain excersise though. I was shocked when I did the brain training program on a friend’s Nintendo to find that my brain age was 67 when I’m only 30!

  5. magic cochin

    As I’m not working on a project which needs lots of research (spent most of the last year illustrating GCSE Geography text books and DVDs, now it’s Art for KS1 and 2) I missed using my brain – so I’m reading a history book about the Anglo Saxons – delving into my roots.

    Think of all the research, thought and creativity you put into your posts on Cottage Smallholder – you’re no stagnating yet!


  6. Diane Epps

    I am a firm believer in “use it or lose it” and in a pathetic effort to keep my brain alive have just learned the Welsh national anthem in welsh which I don’t speak. So you will recognise me I will be the one singing out of tune at the Rugby….

  7. Scintilla

    My brain is not the only muscle that needs flexing !
    My tag post up, though I kept it simple.

  8. I am learning photoshop at college, started this september, then I went on holiday for 3 weeks. So I am quite behind. hopefully I will catch up… I had best start flexi my ‘muscle’, and use my brain train nintendo!

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