When I first trained to be a teacher, ‘life long learning’ was a phrase that was often used to describe a desired goal for teachers. If we could inspire children or young people to become life long learners we would be successful teachers. In typical aspie (Aspergers) fashion, I presumed this meant studying throughout life in an academic type way. I had many inspirational teachers – and so I have studied and studied…. I have a 4 year honours degree, a masters, a PhD and various other things in and between. I am still enrolled at university, studying something else now, but yesterday I discovered another meaning to life long learning!
This is a round about story so I apologise for those of you who prefer a linear telling. My partner is a fantastically social person, who remembers all the details about someone, not just where she knows them from or what they do but who their family is, what they like/dislike etc… I find this stunning as I struggle to recognise people full stop. Now when my partner wants to do something, usually work related, she thinks about who she knows that is interested or may want to do this too and contacts them. When she meets new people via work or related events she sells herself, her skills and interests to everyone she meets. In contrast at job interviews when I am asked why the employers should hire me, I usually reply; “because I am very good at my job” (which I am).
So, having moved countries and set up a new business, doing pretty much what I used to do, because I am very good at it, enjoy it and there seems to be a need for it, I realised I have to get all my own new clients….
I was at an event with educators and my business has as its core client base; schools. So, as well as stressing the day before about how to find the venue (the TomTom will direct me), if I will find parking and/or get lost (yes and yes) and how many people there will be who know each other and I won’t know anyone (other people didn’t know anyone either), I decided I was going to use this opportunity to network. I was going to sell myself and my business. I had a plan – take business cards and brochures and give them to the educators. I was going to learn from my partner and talk to other people (life long learning part 1).
Of course the plan was easier than the reality, having got lost trying to find the car park entrance and then lost in the building…. I was a tad stressed. So I thought I had better sit down in the nearest seat (next to someone which is most unusual) and relax. I sat down, fidgeted a bit, stood up and left the room (my strategy is to re-enter more relaxed by leaving, walking to the nearest bathroom, entering, doing whatever or just washing hands and then leaving and walking back to the room (socially acceptable reason to leave almost any event at pretty much any time). On the way back I had a thought – I always teach the students to breathe and my partner is always reminding me to meditate to relax, so whilst walking back I did I breathing meditation (life long learning part 2).
And then….. I responded to the chatter or the others at the table, and I explained my business and best skills very briefly and gave out my leaflets and business cards!!!!!!!
I was also very pleased that I was not the only one peering at the food at lunch to try and work out what it was before eating it (although I possibly shouldn’t have verbalised that).
So the point of this is that in life other people often give tips or guidance that if we try it, even if it is scary the first few times, can actually enhance our lives considerably. Not all tips or guidance is effective or useful for all of us, but even if it doesn’t work out, it may be worth trying and it is this trying that is another type of life long learning. It is vital for autistic spectrum adults to experience this kind of life long learning as it helps us gain a stronger sense of what we can do now and what we may be able to achieve in the future if we learn new strategies that effectively help us navigate through life.
I am not a great student, like many female aspies I can seem to be a bossy know it all, and was often assumed to be this as a child. Yes, at times this is me, but it is also a very good strategy for many things in school and life as the boss is in control and aspies do like to be in control! However, I think I shall experiment with more of this life skills life long learning and maybe ease up on the academics to focus more on living well.