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was Hänschen nicht lernt…
A saying still very prevalent in my childhood back in Germany was: Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr. Meaning as much as: If you want to be really good at something, you have to learn it as a child. When you’re an adult, it’s too late.
I believed it. Back then it didn’t do me any harm. Since age 5 I’d been learning and perfecting physical skills outside the school curriculum by taking ballet classes and training gymnastics, on top of later studying a subject at university that I enjoyed equally. In terms of learning things, I was fulfilled. I hadn’t missed any chances, I thought.
When I was 22 years old, the wall came down. Fortunately, this was a decisive point in my life in that it turned everything I had just learned by way of getting on in a particular social system on its head. So whether I wanted to or not, I had to start again. The first knock to the Hans theory.
Even more fortunately, the concept of ‘lifelong learning‘ slowly but surely replaced the long-held belief that the skill set you have when you finish your education is all you’ll ever have or even be. So Hans not only could learn new skills, he is now expected to!
I also realised that whatever I had learned in my childhood and youth was valuable but that there were things that I wanted to practice more even then and couldn’t, for lack of time mainly. Like photography. More on that another day.
So fortunately on top of that, technology has come along, giving us access to – admittedly – a lot of useless stuff to waste precious time with, but also to real opportunities to learn new things, without breaking the bank on tuition fees. And along those lines, I just so happened to learn to fly. Well, the next closest thing, to swim butterfly.
I got my first swimming certificate aged 6, 100m breaststroke, just days before I started school. That was pretty much it. My mum made me learn it to stop me walking under water until I didn’t come up any more, not drowning being the chief purpose of the exercise. Done.
Having picked up backstroke and freestyle along the way during summers by the lake, more or less badly (as self-taught), I decided to learn butterfly about 2 months ago. At least to give it a go. I searched online for tutorials and found one that appealed immediately.
I started practicing about a month ago, and today I swam my first entire length. I am very proud of it. I am aware that I haven’t done anything major here, and swimming butterfly will not make me more successful in my chosen career per se. However, I have grown a bit. I have proved to myself that I am not too old to learn a new trick just because I am no longer a child.
And maybe knowing THAT will help in other parts of my life, too.
Keywords: life, lifelong learning, meaningful pastimes, new skills, swimming
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