It’s Never Too Late To Learn New Tricks

“So what do you do work at when you’re not here finishing off your degree?”

“I’ve been a professional singer and dancer for the past 6 years.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed. You really know what you’re doing in class”

“I work hard at it.”

It takes you by surprise somewhat, that people are capable of doing anything should they put their minds to it. Having had the opportunity to teach students for this past year, I’ve learned that sometimes, the usual stereotypes don’t apply and for the better part, there is a world out there that all the more amazing should you pay any attention to it.

It strikes me as a stark contrast between the world I’ve come to live in and the culture that I come from. Back in Malaysia at least, families and peers are so bent in getting their kids out to work. There is a driving force in Asian culture that forces youths to take up the mantle of a provider to both care for the rest of their families and as an image to the rest of society. Young adults by the age 25 at least should have been married with a job by now rather than pottering around in university trying to get a degree. If not, you have to endure the increasing pressure and shame to “grow up” by your family and peers, even if it’s for something more. It’s just the way it is for most Asian cultures.

Here where I am, I’ve learned that you’re never too old to learn new things. Here it is a norm to see people from their 30’s, 40’s and even people in their 50’s learning side by side with people who just completed their high school. It isn’t viewed on as an oddity or an abomination. Most people don’t even think about it. I tend to think that it’s amazing that people still choose to take up the mantle to learn new things, whether or not its to get ahead in the job they are at, or just because they want to for fun.

When was the last time you heard someone tell you that they are doing a science degree for fun when they have been artists, businessmen and civil servants for years or even decades on end?

Again, that’s the way it works around here. People aren’t afraid to take on new challenges and learn new things. They are mature enough, and not just in retrospect to their physical age, to realise that if that is what you really want, then all the “funny looks” in the world won’t discourage you from what you want to do. Even if I grew up in a culture where you’re expected to do and be a certain kind of individual, this is the kind of freedom I’m most at home with.

I’d like to think that more Malaysians could do better to grasp more in life rather than making do with what they will be in for the rest of their lifetimes. The world we live in isn’t just about what we can see. It’s also made up of what we don’t know. There is only a finite amount of excuses to maintain ignorance. The rest is dependant on how much you want it, for better or for worse, in order to see it through.

10 thoughts on “It’s Never Too Late To Learn New Tricks

  1. And good on them. I always said when I’m 60+, I’m going back to uni to get (yet another) degree just for the heck of it, provided I get to pick and choose the subjects I want to study.

  2. I think the big difference between Asian and westerners mindset in this regard, is based primarily on the huge disparity between our different purchasing power parities. In Asia generally (and Malaysia) – you HAVE to work your ass off to secure a decent living for your family, your childrens education, to travel, to own goods that have standard international prices (books, electronics, branded stuff) etc. Thus it’s ingrained in us to strive to earn exponentially so we can afford to send our kids abroad, or improve on our standard of living in this increasingly commercial world… MONEY first, knowledge later (or only if it leads to MORE money).

  3. Cléa: Can you do that? At least not that I know it here in Australia. There is always the core subject you have to take besides the electives. That being said, I wouldn’t mind doing other things than university when I’m older. I might not even leave uni at all to begin with.

    FoOie: That’s the thing. It’s the material wealth that’s long consumed a lot of Asian cultures. Not that it doesn’t encompass western civilization as well, but ultimately it’s because on a whole most Asians don’t really have it that it becomes part of what they seek. Often losing out to what matters. Passion and a sense of freedom.

  4. I cannot imagine doing a science degree for fun. If I didn’t have the background that I have, I don’t think I’d be doing this for fun. I totally respect those people who can just do science for fun and be good at it along the way.

  5. In my previous uni, I used to see a bunch of senior folks gathering almost every other night and the library cafeteria to have a discussion. I later learnt that these bunch of folks were taking a class in World Religion. In fact in my uni, if you’re a senior citizen, your tuition fees is waived!

    Amazing 🙂

  6. Almost Loved: I think it’s the love of it. It’s not just doing a science degree for fun, it’s doing what we dare not imagine doing for fun. Whether a musical instrument or play when we’re people of science or astronomy and physics when we’re tax auditors. Defying what we’re expected to do for the things we want to do. That means something.

    Uncannyman: Senior citizens usually have their fees waived. That’s one benefit of living life for that long.

  7. I think so, provided the subjects fall within a faculty/school. I won’t be picking something too disparate like geology and psychology for example, and if I don’t get a degree out of it but I get to do the subjects I want, so be it. I think it’d be a lot of fun!

  8. Cléa: I can’t say I can see that. I’d like to finish what I started. Maybe in time I can choose to be picky or not, but I think it’s the nature of a person like me to see things through regardless of whether I like it or not. Can’t have fun without a little elbow grease.

  9. I cant imagine going to college out of fun. The learning without doing is the worst period of my life and I am more happy now when I learn while I do my work. But I have a member of family who could go to colleges and learn for years just out of fun. Can’t understand that, but I admire her.

  10. I love people who keep learning and learning. I think it helps keep your mind ‘young’. It’s easy to get in a rut once you’ve left school or uni, so I would say try to force yourself to keep learning new things. Whether that means doing an evening course or totally re-training for a new career. Keep growing – don’t stagnate!


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