You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

We never stop learning. Michelangelo is quoted as saying at the venerable age of 87 “I am still learning”. My dad is especially fond of this sentiment and until recently I never really appreciated how true it was. School years that feel so draggy and boring while we are in them take on a nostalgic hue when we are grown and in the real world of employment. We dedicate huge amounts of time and money and energy arranging reunions with our school and college peers, there are parties organised by companies where the theme is “School Days/Daze” and a vaguely fetishised uniform is worn. We forget the stress and worry of exams and the issues of not being a cool kid, where if we had our skirt too long or our backpacks on both shoulders we would be singled out as the “square” – I’m only going on my experiences here. I wasn’t a cool kid – too self-conscious and rule abiding, I ached to fit in with the cool girls and failed, finding instead a bunch of girls who didn’t really care about teen fashion or whether I was wearing knee-length socks.  My school friends have grown into smart, switched on women who still don’t care what we all wear as long as we are all still friends. Through the wonders of social media we can search for old friends that we lost touch with and share our lives and experiences as they happen. Some may think it’s the school clique for the digital age, I just like to think of it as keeping in touch.

This was never our uniform…

As we grow up get older, some of the lessons we were taught stay with us: how to tie our shoes, when to cross the street, the undeniable lesson that french fries dipped in chocolate milkshake are divine; all the big lessons. Other lessons we learn as we get older. For example, it is never a good idea to drink the bar dry on an empty stomach, the first kiss will not be the last, you should always try to pay your credit card on time and it’s sensible to remember to put the right fuel in the car. These lessons are what some would call “life lessons” and the longer we live, the more we learn. Learning, as I may have mentioned before, never stops. This past weekend was a prime example. I learnt that I’m more like my mum and sister than I thought [apparently we all comment when we are away from the house what needs cleaning on our return – our respective partners all confirmed this]. I learnt that our shared history can be quite a lot for new partners to take in when we’re en masse and that yelling Bob Dylan lyrics while some of us are pissed (drunk, not mad for the American readers) is both funny and a bit weird to those who didn’t experience the magic of Bob first hand.


I’m meandering as I remember, I know. It’s something I’m prone to do while reminiscing and talking about the random things in my head. Learning about who we are as adults and what we really want to do with our lives is something I’ve not given much thought to until recently. I tend to shuffle on in my groove and absorb the changes that happen into said groove until something makes me sit up and have a serious think about what I’m doing and where I’m heading. I fall into things; jobs, friendships, puddles and ideas without much decided effort. This has both benefits and drawbacks, mainly that puddles are wet and eventually I’ll have to make a serious and decided choice about what I am doing. Making a conscious choice about how to deal with my mental health is one – I don’t want to be sad and sobbing forever so I made a choice to learn about my rather wonky brain, took the drugs and accepted the help I was offered. So far, I’m getting better. I like this choice – it is one of my better, wiser choices.

About a week ago, I made the decision that I’ve not finished learning. When I say a week ago, this was when I actually did something about the 10 year itch I’ve had – I want to retrain in an entirely new profession. An old school friend, primary school in fact, is making a massive leap back into full-time education to pursue a career that she’s wanted to do for a long time. While talking about this with her, I confessed my desire to retrain and in the same breath came up a list of reasons why I couldn’t possibly take that massive step and actually do something about it. I’d like to say she humoured me and said that I was probably right. I’m actually glad she did nothing of the sort. What she did say was that I could do it and I should do it because, wouldn’t it be a bitch if I looked back in 10 years and said “Oh, I wish I’d done that”? She’s right of course. Having admitted my hopes and desires over pizza (which is an excellent food stuff to share confidences by the way) I had a plan. Plans need momentum otherwise they become Regrets and that only leads to that well-known side street, Bitterness Ave.

Say it!

And so, I come to the big reveal – I’m going back to school. To learn new things and remember old ones. More specifically, I have a 5 year Plan, for the first time ever. My starting point is my Access course, undertaken as a distance learning programme in my own time after work but before sleeping. The course will then equip me with the entry requirements to apply to university and train to become a Midwife. There, I’ve shared my dream. It’s not to have a pony or a swimming pool, or to have a lottery win so big I’d never have to work again. No siree, I want to immerse myself in a world of gestational development, maternal health, pee tests, birth and beyond. Phew, that feels better saying it out loud. I’ve thought about becoming a midwife for the last 10 years and now, I’m doing something about it. The access course isn’t going to be easy but at least when (not if – I’m being positive) I qualify, I can say I did it. I may end up being a midwife and after 5 years, realise it really isn’t all it cracked up to be, although I hope not. What I’m not going to do is say in another 10 years, I wish I’d retrained.

Greeting for future ladies?

I have my first contact with my tutor tomorrow night. I’m hoping she doesn’t think my efforts on my induction work are laughable and I don’t say something stupid about getting gold stars on my homework. Then, it’s 12 months of hard work, applying to universities and being focussed on my future. I’m pretty sure I’ll learn a lot more than just the course syllabus but as a wise man once told me, you never stop learning. Thanks Dad – I hope so.


6 responses to “You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

    • Yup. The biggest decision I’ve ever made (bigger than getting hitched – that was a no brainer). I’ve got lots of reasons…but if I don’t try, I’ll never know.

  1. Pingback: Out with the old, in with the new | 30 and beyond·

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