I love to learn. Perhaps this makes me a lifelong learner. As a child, I did not care much for reading books or memorizing material for exams. I was not a good student, so I did not think of myself as a lifelong learner.
I graduated from college 25 years ago. When I was younger, I was not sure there was a college path for me. I grew up in public housing as Becky Ortiz and dropped out of high school at 15 because family circumstances made it necessary for survival. I began to learn that I was capable of much more than I ever believed.
I always loved learning about things I was interested in, like how to grow an orange tree from an orange I had just eaten, and watch it grow. My friend Sarah and I would take these seedlings and sell them to college students passing by on their way to classes at Cornell University. It was exciting to share our new creations with others. We would tell them they could plant the seedlings and grow fresh Florida oranges.
Lifelong learning does not always look the same
I differed from those college students because, after 8 years of working in restaurants, I went to college at the age of 24. First, I went to Monroe Community College, then St. John Fisher College. This is why education is so important to me. Now that love of learning manifests itself differently. I appreciate the way mechanical parts work and watch YouTube videos to learn how to fix my ice maker. I realize that I love to learn, but mostly about things connected to my life. I prefer taking new information and applying it immediately to my situation. I enjoy listening to or watching meaty content in short spurts.
Perhaps this is why the EACUBO (Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers) Annual Meeting is so exciting for me. I spend 3 days listening to financial leaders share stories of innovations they are implementing at their institutions, often to remedy challenges they faced. This year, I was even presenting with a client.
I can attend the presentations I am most curious about and learn from others who have solved those challenges. In each instance, they were not solving challenges they had roadmaps for. There was no book to read. This was uncharted territory. They were not intimidated by what they did not know. Instead, they applied their learned skills, critical thinking, and a lot of hard work to reach a solution.
One characteristic of a lifelong learner is a love of reading. This is probably because reading was historically the primary source of information. Now, with so many options like podcasts, videos, and personal interactions at conferences we can consume new information in other ways, apply it to our situations, and turn it into knowledge. I am a lifelong learner because I know knowledge gives me the power to do anything!