How I Learn

We’re tiptoeing into Christmas, and while I might be spending it in muggy Houston this year, my previous few months have seen winter weather aplenty. I spoke a few weeks ago about how I missed seeing the Northern Lights while I was visiting Norway, but I’d like to show you a bit more of the country, as well as attempt to explain why I enjoy traveling so much.

Though I am an admitted college dropout, I remain an avid learner.  It took me until much later in life to realize that it wasn’t learning I didn’t like – it was the delivery mechanism.  Lectures and Powerpoint (overhead projectors, actually, during my brief university time) didn’t give me any sense of control.

I wasn’t being led by my curiosity. I was being led by a dispassionate professor with a syllabus. Nothing could make me want to look around the next corner less.

But now, I’ve worked hard at identifying my weaknesses. I know I have to trick myself into learning new things. I have to reframe it.  I’m no longer memorizing algebra formulas to satisfy Mrs. Noblitt. I’m off on informational rabbit hunts of my own choosing, free to know everything about anything I want to.

It just feels different when I’m not beholden to anyone else. If I’d had a real passion or a goal when I enrolled, the outcome might have been different.  I didn’t; I was pretending to like Civil Engineering because my dad said I should.

Visiting Norway prompted all sorts of curiosity though.  Yes, the obvious things, like their economy and taxation and health care and subsidies, and also yes to things like the aurora borealis and are there polar bears? and how the sun can set at 2:00 pm.

But also unexpected ones.

I delved into World War II history when I heard about the Norwegian military and how the northern army handed the Germans their first real land-loss in the war.

I learned about the Sami, the native Scandinavians that found themselves dragged into that war, and then I became fascinated by how their specialized knowledge in such an otherwise inhospitable environment changed the course of fighting above the Arctic Circle.

But one of the cooler aspects was that, just as I was learning about the Sami people, Disney was in negotiations to ensure that they would represent the Sami people properly in their now-released Frozen 2. It is a rare case of everyone doing everything right.

And instead of becoming the target of the internet’s ire, as is often the case when any group is depicted on film, Disney is at the front of a positive conversation about culture and history.

And I think it says something about the strength of imagination over anger, and how a lot of our world is full of stories waiting to be told, and we can only get to them by continuously flipping new pages.

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