For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to learn about anything that crossed my mind. I pursued and cornered topics ranging from History to Aerospace, from carpentry to sports and games, among the shelves of the public library. School, by contrast, paled in comparison to the education I was attaining on my own, and although some subjects were genuinely interesting, overall my formal education was beset by boredom and bullying. Furthermore, I was convinced that the pursuit of knowledge has nothing to do with attaining good grades, and it showed in my lackluster report cards. Eventually I learned to play the game, studying for and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering.
In the three years since earning my degree, between on the job training and professional development courses, I have learned much more about engineering working at my job than in the classroom. One adjustment I have had to make in my job is the lengthening of the learning curve. In my previous experience with school, food service, and the Navy, the timeframe from the point of introduction to a concept to the point of reasonable competence with a concept is anywhere from weeks to months, while in engineering the timeframe extends for years. One day I approached my manager feeling discouraged that I was not learning my job quick enough, and he reassured me that some of these skills take years to acquire, and the best way to learn is experience.
Even as I become more proficient in my vocation, I continue my lifelong desire to expand my intelligence. It began at the age of five or six, when I was obsessed with learning about all the Presidents of the United States (I can still recite all of them in order). Over time, I became interested in dinosaurs, space travel, aviation, naval vessels, European history, and the American Civil War among other subjects. The process has changed little over the years; an idea pops into my head, I search for articles, books, or videos on the subject, and after weeks of learning about it, another idea takes its place, and the process begins again.
In my quest to learn, I preferred to spend many hours of my youth in the library instead of doing my schoolwork or socializing with my peers. I did not put forth the effort to be an honor roll student, which frustrated both my mother and my teachers. Most of my peers only saw me as the weird kid who spends all his time reading about stuff that no one cares about, making me an easy target for bullies. The ultimate irony, which I have learned is not unique, is that I was the one punished for fighting back. This instilled in me a deep mistrust of those who choose ignorance over knowledge.
As human beings, the greatest gifts we have been given are the heart, the soul, and the mind, and the interconnection between them. Thus, the pursuit of knowledge enhances our humanity through the synthesis between mind, heart, and soul. From the student in the classroom to the scholar cloistered in the library, the desire to understand the universe is intrinsic to the human experience. We must stand up to any attempt by those who would stifle this drive to learn, because to do so is detrimental to us all.