Dr. Jonathan Waugh has been my friend for over twenty years. Together we conducted research, prepared and published medical manuscripts, and traveled the world lecturing audiences regarding our work. Over those decades we only once lived in the same city. During that time we had nearly weekly meetings at a favorite Indian restaurant, Haveli’s in Atlanta.
Each year he or his wife, Linda, has never failed to send their annual Christmas newsletter. My wife and I read them and hang onto them for a while before they become misfiled somewhere in my office.
Aside from the typed news, that everyone who receives the Waugh Family Christmas message reads, there is often a hand-written personalized note to me. This year was no different; there was a note and a question. The question is, “What new thing do you plan to learn next year?”
I’d once told Jonathan that every year I pick a new academic subject to learn. That’s true, I do. Some years the topic may expand to multiple years as did law school. Others are less structured, for example I once spent a year studying the Civil War. During another year I enrolled at Liberty University and completed a graduate course on Biblical Studies. I’ve also done accounting, math, art, Spanish as a language (that failed); learning amateur radio (I’m AE4PG for those who understand), sleep medicine, and took a regulatory affairs program to better myself concerning FDA matters. That is not a complete list. All of those were completed after I’d earned my doctorate.
Most people are done with school with a terminal degree. For me it was not about earning another degree. Heck, when we moved here to North Carolina, my wife and I both tossed our diplomas not wanting to deal with the continued storage of the framed piece of egocentricity. They’d been in an attic for decades and were relics.
Nope, it isn’t about more degrees, it is the mental challenge to learn something new and different or to augment a foundation of learning. I am ashamed to admit, this year I can’t decide between taking a paramedic course or earning a computer science degree. I want both.
I need the paramedic program because we live in the sticks. I taught in a paramedic program at Georgia Southern in Statesboro, GA but was never a student. I know, having been around paramedics I am ill equipped in that field. The primary motivator is where we live. If something really bad were to happen to someone here getting emergency medical support will be too slow. It wouldn’t take much for me to catch up with the knowledge and skills, but it means some time having reduced travel freedom to attend the local college where the program is offered.
Computer Science the other selection and it would be a major benefit to me. I took three or four computer science classes in college. It was required. When it comes to computers, I’m as good as the next nerd that isn’t a computer geek. But, so much has changed since my schools days (my first course used Basic) that I know I’ve lost ground. I could apply new computer skills in so much of my personal work and this website that it would be advantageous. In addition, there are still so many medical and physiological assemblages that I can’t help but think about where more computer skills would help me in discovery.
Each year I make a plan. I make one for sports, I’ve written about it here, and one that is academic. Each path offers challenges in time, effort, focus, and concentration. My sports plan is so far underway it is being refined. The academic one, well if I had more brains it would be done by now. Thanks, Jonathan for the nudge. (And to answer the question, I am leaning toward the paramedic program that starts in the spring)