Autumn: Learning to Learn Again

One of the quirks of growing up is acclimating yourself to 18 years of summer holidays and then being launched into a lifetime of monotonous routine, interrupted only by such breaks as you save up for and which vary from year to year. Solving difficult tasks is what you’re paid to do, summer becomes the thing you see from your office window, and autumn loses some of its romanticism in “end-of-the-year deadlines” . . .

Like every other bookish child, I was filled with excitement by the arrival of autumn, or fall as we call it here. It was a time for putting on sweaters and jumpers (the American dress), prying open new workbooks, and stocking my pencil case with #2 pencils and fresh pink erasers. In-between studies and music and evening activities, I was always adventuring off into books—everything from children’s mysteries to classics to random biographies. I could get lost for hours, even days, in a particular topic that grabbed me.

It is harder to recapture that feeling now, and sometimes it feels gone forever. On the plane ride previously mentioned, though, I watched part of a documentary about Mayan pyramids, from a Nat Geo series called Lost Cities with Albert Lin. I was nearly as excited about my discovery as Lin was with his: deep down, I still have that same (dormant) joy for learning about random stuff. How do I get it back completely?

When I got home, I started a new notebook. Call it a commonplace book, call it a journal . . . it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a month-by-month note of things I want to focus on and learn about.

With the end of the year approaching, my goals for September are focused more around reflection and tidying up my place. But I have a backlog of things that I am learning about and a plethora of nonfiction books to read. (More on that to come!)

Lists won’t cut it on their own, though, so I’ve taken to changing up my routine a bit. I read outdoors more often and encourage myself to watch random educational videos on YouTube. A few curated goals are well balanced by a dash of spontaneity. Wonder is something you can plan for but you can’t really plan.


What are you excited about learning these days? And if you need ideas, I’ll leave you with a clip from Lost Cities . . .

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Where’s My Summer?

Today I was scrolling through Goodreads and got hit by a funny feeling of nostalgia. Seeing other people had finished books one after the other, I felt both inspired and a bit saddened.

These past few months have been weird on several fronts, with so many changes in my personal life, good and bad. I miss the simpler times when summer meant making a dent in my reading list, sitting outside (in milder temperatures!) and getting lost in a tale of yore. Reading in 2022 has been painfully slow for me, and though I’ve more or less settled down into a brand-new life, it hasn’t really caught up yet.

If I had a week to myself, this is the sort of summer I’d like to have:

  • Finish Middlemarch and all my other current reads
  • Pick up an “axe” of a book—maybe the rest of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories or another stab at The Mosquito Coast
  • Read another Japanese novel
  • Finish Andrew Yang’s Forward or Matt Sheehan’s The Transpacific Experiment
  • Watch more adaptations of books I’ve read

Even if I can’t get to all this, it is nice to write it out.

What about you, how’s your summer reading going?

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