Back to School (to get schooled)

School bus, rear viewAfter spending the bulk of one’s childhood and adolescence in school followed by four years of higher education and yet another two years of Even Higher education, one is understandably relieved to have the days of learning behind one. Or, to put it another way, I paid my time; let me be an adult in the real world now, please.

But, as your mother always told you, you never really stop learning. You hoped she meant that as “you never really stop learning what those divots on the sides of plastic wrap boxes are, for example,” but she actually meant it as “you never really stop learning, as in cramming your head full of stuff to prepare for a rather important test.” Except this time, you can’t really write the irregular Spanish verbs on the insole of your shoe to help you along. (Bloody irregular verbs.)

This is all a roundabout way of saying: I have to get my learning on, and I am not a happy newt.

Lots of professions force continuing education on its practitioners, and I’m all for that. You wouldn’t want a doctor who hadn’t brushed up on what certain pills do, or a lawyer who hadn’t taken a glance at the latest law books. But I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer because, Christ, I’d spent enough time in ill-ventilated classrooms stuffed into too-small desks, thankyouverymuchSheila. And I have to admit, it’s a little annoying to find out that continuing education extends to Flackdom as well.

I have only myself to blame for not realizing this sooner. If I had paid more attention, I would have noticed the social media 101 webinars and PR conferences and journo Q&A’s (you know, the fun stuff where they sometimes serve soft drinks) were all part of that continuing education for a lot of flacks. Maybe it was because all those things were within my comfort zone, or maybe it was because I didn’t feel the immediate pressure to absorb new material for anything but my own pleasure, but I never felt hassled before.

But now I find myself a little out of my depth, studying metrics and engagement measurement. I knew these things were important, sure, but in the same way I knew my gall bladder was important; I didn’t completely understand how it worked and if it broke, someone else could fix it.

Do you remember those dreams (perhaps you still have them) where you are told that somehow you didn’t finish a class in high school and you’re forced to go back and take a test you’re not ready for, and oh, by the way, it’s for biochemical philosophy? That’s the sort of feeling I experienced. It’s not metrics itself that’s the issue here; I don’t have to be reminded how desperately important it is to understand and formulate a smart measurement plan. It’s knowing that I have to keep filling my brain with stuff other than episodes of Lost that makes me revert to Teenage Teej, dress in black clothing, and slouch against buildings while grumbling about how hard life is.

In the end, this attitude problem can be filed firmly under #firstworldproblems. I must have been a complete idiot to think that I would never have to learn something that seems boring and math-ish to me after getting out of school. It seems to be a lesson I forget and re-remember every year some time around tax season.

So consider this post a selfish self-motivational tool that I share with you: let’s all keep learning, guys, even if we don’t feel like it.

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