Now that you’re done, don’t stop learning

Don’t stop.
When seniors walk across the commencement stage and enter what professors and administrators call the “real world,” the things they had to do to graduate will fall to the wayside. Most won’t read 100 pages a night to keep up in their English classes. Most writers won’t write stories with difficult prompts. Most artists won’t challenge themselves with art techniques that don’t initially interest them. Most performers may not learn excruciatingly tedious pieces just for the sake of learning something new.
We seniors will be free, and we’ll let all the challenges we’ve had to endure for our education drop off us like they’re burdens rather than learning tools.
That’s a mistake. Because if we let ourselves go, we’ll forget.
I took biology my senior year of high school, and the only thing I can remember is the stench of formaldehyde and baby pig innards. And how long a pig’s long intestine is. And how freshmen scream when your teacher allows you to parade pig innards through the classroom next door for giggles.
But I digress. The point is that I don’t remember anything of relevance from that class six years later because I don’t use it every day.
I also took two years of French in high school, and then our program was cut. When I came to UAA, they refused to waive my language requirement. I failed to test out because I hadn’t studied it in two years and couldn’t remember anything. When I eventually took the class though, it all came bak after the first week. It was bliss! I coasted for the entire first semester because it covered everything I learned in high school, and the knowledge was still locked away in my head.
I love the French language, but it’s been another few years since I’ve studied it. Now if someone spoke French to me, I’d just stare at them and blink like an idiot. I let it happen again. But I’m confident that, because I love it so much, because I care, I could get it back just as easily as I did the first time.
A very wise man once told me that no new knowledge is wasted. So, my fellow peers, those things that it took to sharpen your mind and help earn you that degree? Don’t stop doing them. Creativity never dies, but skill does rot away when it goes unused.
Learn a piece by Mozart, even if you hate his compositions. Pull three writing prompts out of a hat and work them into a short story on a day off. Do you hate using watercolors? Practice it anyway. You never know when you’ll need these skills for that career you’ve been fighting all these years to be qualified for. Maybe a thing that was a past chore will turn into a joy, now that you’re doing it on your own terms instead of under the whip of a professor.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bone up on my French.
Félicitations, classe de 2013!

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