Learn something new every day (even if you're not going back to school)

More so even than New Year's Eve, for many of us back to school signals a fresh start. And even when you're not the one loading up a backpack and riding your bike through fallen leaves, there is still that desire to start anew. With its uncracked books, shiny new shoes, and a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils, it's a season filled with possibility. But just because you're not filing into a classroom doesn't mean you can't seize the energy of the season for yourself. And the bonus of a lifetime of learning as an adult? No homework.

Didn't get into Yale? Me neither. But anyone can listen to podcasts from the hallowed halls of learning, on everything from philosophy to literary theory. And it's not just Yale, of course. On iTunes U, you can explore a whole host of college offerings. Professors share the syllabus so you can read along, or you can just listen and be glad you don't have to trudge through an essay on hermeneutics.

Have you ever just idly wished you knew more about the Romanov family or why thunder booms? Walk into a bookstore or your local library with no agenda; just let your curiosity guide you. There were few things more exciting to me as a kid than going to the library and checking out a stack of books as tall as me. Indulge that sense of wonder and interest by sopping up whatever interests you like a sponge. Or just give yourself 20 minutes to Google "Princess Anastasia." If you're curiosity is sated, more on. If not, hit the books.


Ah, the course catalog. Such a tome of opportunity! Pick up the fall course catalogs from local community colleges, universities, and centers for adult learning in your area. Flip through them, marking everything that sparks your interest. Watercolors, pottery, French--the sky's the limit. If you find something that looks good, but the price is a little rich for your blood, see if you can interest a handful of friends to form a group to learn and study a common interest together.

Have you always wanted to read Moby Dick? Or finish War and Peace? Or finally brave Sartre? Do you wish you'd taken that European history survey in college? Make a list of the books you feel are glaring gaps in your personal education. (And hey, if it's Twilight, no shame.) Every time you're looking for something to read, consult the list for fresh inspiration.

Books open up a world of knowledge and adventure, but our bodies offer a key to a different kind of knowledge. Remember when PE entered the square dance unit? Or when you practiced drills in basketball or learned to master a new move in gymnastics? Embrace physical learning with something as low-commitment as a visit to a yoga studio, or trying out one of the classes at your gym with fancy footwork, like African dance or step. Or sign up for a class at a dance studio that gets you out of your head and into your body, like belly dancing, tap, or tango.

Tap directly into that stream of childhood wonder by revisiting your favorite books as a kid. Why not reread the Little House series every fall? Or wander into the children's section of you local bookstore and just browse. You might not be learning anything new, per se, but you'll be reminded of all the delight these books gave you all those years ago. Better still? New and old favorites alike can reconnect you to the feeling that the world is filled with possibilities.

What was your favorite part of heading back to school? How have you celebrated that season as an adult?

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