An Old Dog *Can* Learn New Tricks

At least she can try.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve had this feeling for a few years now that my learning is done. That once you turn 30, or 35, or 40 or whatever, your brain says “nope!” that’s it. We become like our parents and grandparents. Openhandedly slapping our computer keyboard and screaming “It don’t work!” I swore I was never going to be like that and yet, I felt the limitations pressing down on me that it was happening.

That’s one thing that’s been on the forefront of my mind in taking these classes. Is the part of my brain that can actually accept and comprehend new ideas still functioning to the point where this will be worth my while? Will I leave in tears because everything will seem like a language that I can’t understand?

Enter this weekend.

A few months ago, I had picked up a rather inexpensive… no wait, a VERY inexpensive laptop. I felt my creativity creeping back in and I assumed that it was going to come in the form of writing again. That’s all I needed- something I could write on, do email, conduct some business online. It’ll be fine.

Windows 8 should have been my first clue.

I’d say that demons from hell developed Windows 8, but I’m not sure that’s really fair to the demons from hell. I cursed that operating system every time I sat down to use the computer. I still had 7 on my desktop and found myself using it more simply because I didn’t want to fight with the monstrosity that was 8.

I felt like an old person shaking my fist at the screen. Calling it a new fangled so and so and why couldn’t we just go back to the days of the steam powered abacus? Or rocks. Rocks are nice…

Then 10 came out. Admittedly, it was better. I was able to tweak it enough so that I didn’t have huge friendly colorful boxes in my face constantly. If it’s not going to offer me a cup of tea and follow up on that offer, it doesn’t need to be invading my space like it did. I saw no tea, I remedied the situation. It was passable. I could deal with it.

At this point, I discovered I was doing more with my photography and wanted to be able to start retouching my photos. That’s when I discovered how bad this purchase really had been. And it was frustrating. Needless to say, it was far from high-end. Despite the fact that I had shopped for weeks, read reviews, compared, contrasted and educated the tar out of my choices, it wasn’t the right thing for me. The display was horrible. I found myself editing the photos then uploading them to my phone so I could see what they actually looked like. Talk about frustrating when I couldn’t get the effect I was going for without a lot of runaround.

That’s when Chad and I had “the talk” and he said “I’ve been considering a MacBook myself.”

Whaaaaaat? Ok. It’s not that out of the question. He’s used Macs before in different places he’s worked. Aside from my phone and my iPad, the only Apple computer I had ever consistently used were Apple II in the computer lab I took between second and third grade, and the Apple IIe we kinda sorta touched in seventh grade computer lab. That fact alone makes me feel ancient. I opened my mind up to the idea. We started looking at them.

But I’m an old dog. I’ve used Windows since 3. There are people I know who weren’t even born when this was a thing. I cut my teeth on DOS before that. I’m too damn old and set to learn a completely different system.

There’s one thing that you should know about me and that it’s that I like a challenge. Within reason, of course. I’m not going to eat a rancid mayo sandwich on rye as I skydive without a parachute into the Grand Canyon after it’s been filled with broken glass and thumbtacks. I’m careful, but I like a challenge.

Yesterday, I decided to accept the challenge. I figured hell. I’m taking a challenge by going back to school. I’m taking a new challenge in adopting new hobbies. I take a challenge every day when I get out of bed to survive that day with minimal trauma. I can do this

And you know what? I love it. I’m still learning, but I’m getting it. I’m having to break some old habits, but it’ll come. Even though this all has to do with an aluminum case of circuitry, it’s giving me some insight into other things as well. The class? It’s going to be like learning this new computer. I’m going to break the old habits I have to learn new, better ones that will benefit me more. I should always be on the lookout for when I’m settling for things, versus having the tools that I need to get the job done. And I’m only 42. That’s not so old is it?

So if I may count it as a victory, I’m typing away like an old pro on a piece of equipment that I thought would be alien to me. The words are forming, in English, and it at least makes sense to me if nobody else.

Bring on the hoops and hurdles.


Take That, Universe!

I’ve had days where I’ve had some self doubt creep into my brain. We all go through it, especially when there are some changes ahead. As much as I try not to think about or take to heart what other people say or do, I’m too sensitive. Anxiety has this way of putting ideas into your head that have no logical basis in any fact and it’s hard to shut them up once they’ve started screaming.

I wish I could say that it only involved my going to school, but I can’t. I was starting to feel as though some of my support pillars weren’t as strong as I would have liked them to be all the way around. Doubt started trickling in. It chose photography/going to school as it’s victim. Every time I’d sit down with my pre-course homework, I’d ask myself what I was doing. My brain would lock up. I’d tell myself “it’s not like anyone cares if you do this or not, so why bother?”

You know, I care if I do this or not.

And I want to do it.

This morning, I was able to push some of those annoying thoughts aside. I sat down with my work and I got it done. That helped. Okay, anxiety, negativity, whatever you are. That much is done. You’ve lost this round. (Cue Final Fantasy victory music)

Later this afternoon, I was browsing Facebook. I belong to a few nature photography groups that reach some pretty wide areas. Focusing on one in particular, I got to going over their page. over 12,000 followers. Some amazing photos. Some were professional, others were not. All submissions are voluntary. I hadn’t even considered submitting anything before, but I took a deep breath and I did it.

Within an hour, the photo was approved and shared out to the group. (Final Fantasy victory music again)

Within two hours it had a handful of shares. Some of these went to other large groups of a similar nature. (You know what to add here)

Within three hours, I had shares from all over the world. (Final Fantasy Victory theme on bagpipes)

I realize, this is Facebook. Like and Share this post and Bill Gates will show up at midnight with Nieman Marcus cookies and Applebees coupons to let you know that he’s cured a little girl’s horrific case of halitosis. I get that. It’s not a contest. It’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes, you need a little positive recognition. That’s what I’ve gotten here.

It’s making me put my “support pillars” into perspective. I’m starting to realize that this is a title I’ve given to some people and that it’s not been earned. There are certain people I have expected to be my support and through no fault of anyone, they just don’t do the job. Does that make them terrible people? No. Have they let me down? I thought they had, but why did I burden them with that responsibility in the first place? I can’t even blame myself- which is a good thing.

I think that most of us, especially artists need to take a broader look at who inspires and truly supports what we do. I never want to shut anyone out or not give them the opportunity to evolve into a role of support, but I need to stop assuming that those that I want to support me will always do so. In taking this broader approach, I’m recognizing people who have supported me that I have not given proper credit.

Furthermore, I need to be the center pole of my own support. I can choose my spokes wisely, but it’s up to me to be kinder to myself. To take those opportunities that push me forward and not to get so hung up on people who just really were never really there to begin with.

The thing lives on…


Doing The Thing

As I came into the kitchen this morning for a second cup of coffee, I heard a new bird song out back. I still haven’t discovered what’s creating it, but it’s beautiful. For all I know it’s an old bird who just learned to vibrate his tiny vocal cords in a new way. And that got me to thinking.

I’ve learned one thing in the past year. I have to create to survive. Whether it be to write, to photograph, to draw, to craft- creation is vital to me. It’s been far too long since I’ve allowed myself this basic necessity and that’s why I’ve felt so long like I’m drowning.

I was always the “creative” kid. The one making up stories, drawing pictures, making up places I was going to run away to visit. I self-published. I had an art exhibition. I won some awards. And then it stopped.

I decided I had to become an adult.

And I’m trying to decide when that happened. I started listening less to my inner voices that told me what I needed to do to breathe and exist and more to the outside voices that told me I had to get the job, make the money, and take life seriously. I still hear my family telling me that there’s no point in persuing something unless you can make money from it and be successful in society’s eyes and retire well enough to only have to work part-time until you die. I concentrated so much energy onto doing what I felt that I “needed” and was “expected” to do, that I somewhere along the way stopped listening to what made me “me.” And I suffered for that.

The only thing I can figure is that the Universe took pity on me last year. some things fell into place and I’ve had time to figure myself out again. The good thing though is that time has allowed me to rediscover creativity. I’ve not always recognized it, but I know the feeling that it brings and that old friend is slowly reaquainting itself with my life. It’s an old friend that I desperately missed. Our relationship is a little scarred after all of these years, but we’re working on it and making headway. It’s being patient with me and I’m trying to be kind and obliging to it.

I finally bit the bullet last week and enrolled in a non-credit photography course at the University of Tennessee. It’s pretty basic, learning what all of the dials and switches on my camera do. How to take great photos instead of lucking out and getting it just right on a lark. I’m excited. And I’m scared. I’ll be learning something new, and taking criticism. I’ll be meeting new people, and facing my social anxiety head on. I’ll be following my eye, and following instructions. I’ll be creating, and finding new ways to create.

Right now, like this bird out there, I’m wondering if Creativity is showing me a new species of itself or it’s learned a new song that it wants me to enjoy. Or that there might even be a third reason I never heard that song. I never stopped to listen. I’m listening now. Sing away. I’m here to listen.