Are You Too Old to Learn Something New?

Are You Too Old to Learn Something New?

When I was 16 I got my driver’s license. It was one of the greatest days of my life. Freedom. The ability to just go and do it all by myself was like a miracle. Because I was given a car this really was an option. The feeling was thrilling. Empowerment was not a word I had ever heard back then, but it describes how I felt. Empowered. Hurrah!

At the height of my ecstasy, it occurred to me that my grandmother did not know how to drive. She was at the mercy of the duties of the chauffeur. She could be driven whenever she needed to be unless there was something else he needed to do. It may sound ‘grand’ to have a chauffeur but it is not independence. That was what I craved. It seemed to me that everyone else must crave that too. So I asked my mother “Why doesn’t grandmother learn to drive a car?” And my mother said, “oh, she is too old to learn now.” Well, I think she must have been about 73 years old. NOT that old as far as I was concerned. But in those days, during the 1950s it seemed old. And I said to mother,” Well, I would learn NOW. I will never be that way. I will never let some new thing come along and refuse to learn it, just because it is new and I am old.”

Years passed. Computers were everywhere.

And in the meantime, I decided to go to college to get a degree because I had never done so when I was young. I married at 19 and only went to one semester of Mount Vernon Junior College back then. I felt comfortable going back to school at the age of 50 because many people went back by then. It was not all that unusual. Besides, I had gone to school to get my Real Estate Brokers license and that was hard. It seemed frightening in the beginning but I did it.

So I began school in 1992. NO one at the school had an email address. The syllabus was typed out on paper. Teachers could not be reached by email but were available during office hours. And yet, I noticed that movies had segments about computers, and Airlines had rudimentary computers for buying shuttle tickets to New York or Boston. There were signs everywhere that the computer “revolution” was in progress.

By January, my birthday month I had decided that if I was to avoid being like my grandmother, I had better learn how to use a computer. They were expensive. My excess income was almost non-existent at this time. My mother called to tell me she wanted to buy me some Jewelry for my birthday. I said, “Thank you, Mother. But I already have a lot of jewelry. What I want is a computer. Will you buy me a computer instead of the Elizabeth Locke piece you were planning to buy?” My mother answered, “Oh! How UGLY!” But she agreed to give me the money to buy the components for my computer.

One of my sons worked for IBM in New York City. I called him and asked him what I should buy. He told me what I should ask for at the large computer store which sold components and software and things that were all a mystery to me. Off I went to “Comp USA” with a handwritten list of items that I could only imagine would become part of my life (and my vocabulary). I bought all the pieces home and a nice computer-wise man came to my house and put it all together. He showed me how to use the mouse and suggested that I play solitaire to accustom myself to it. Then he showed me how to download Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and I practiced every night until I could type 50 words a minute. That was good enough for me. I was off and running!

It was just like getting a driver’s license. It was freedom! I did not have to depend on anyone else to type my papers. My email was my own. And I enjoyed writing on the computer because of the ease of cutting and pasting whole paragraphs or pieces of paragraphs and arranging things just as I wished. No carbon paper, nor using “white out” to correct mistakes. There were some problems in the early days. Once I wrote a huge long list of people and addresses and forgot to click save. I lost the whole thing. It was a good lesson though.

We called the Internet the World Wide Web. When I first owned a computer there was no “windows” and I had never heard of AOL. But soon enough I had both of these. That moved me up fast. They used to call AOL “training wheels” for computer newbies. The point is that I learned and learned to totally enjoy working with computers. Sometimes as I was busily typing a paper late at night I could hardly believe it was me. It all seemed so strange and new.

George Mason University

At the same time, all the schools were beginning to computerize. After the first year of finding my way into education, I realized I needed to go to a good school with lots of options and many different courses at different times of day. After all, I was still a wife and mother and in the beginning, I was still doing real estate too. So I enrolled at George Mason University and began to really explore education. What a great school that was for me. All students were given an email address, all teachers had email, too. By the time I graduated the entire system was computerized. No more paper syllabus, no more paper anything. It could all be done by computer. It was a total transformation during the 6 years it took me to graduate.

That was 25 years ago. So, do not be afraid to start late. Just start whatever it is that you wish to do. I am so glad did not let that feeling of being “too old” stop me. Nor does it stop me now. Don’t let it stop you, either.

Copyright©. 2023 Bonnie B. Matheson

2 thoughts on “Are You Too Old to Learn Something New?

  1. Hi Bonnie,
    This hit home for me as I started with horses at age 60 and at 80 am still going strong with them. People thought I was nuts to use my retirement this way but it had always been a dream of mine. Now I get to enjoy them with my grandkids. We show, trail ride and do trail obstacle activities with the horses. I love what I am doing even tho’ it gets in the way of some travel I had wished to be able to do but that isn’t a bad thing given the way the world is right now.

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