5 January 2010
An article in the NY Times came along that deeply interested me. Titled; How to Train the Aging Brain, author Barbara Strauch (published 12/29/09) says this;
“Brains in middle age, which, with increased life spans, now stretches from the 40s to late 60s, also get more easily distracted. Start boiling water for pasta, go answer the doorbell and — whoosh — all thoughts of boiling water disappear. Indeed, aging brains, even in the middle years, fall into what’s called the default mode, during which the mind wanders off and begin daydreaming. Given all this, the question arises, can an old brain learn, and then remember what it learns? Put another way, is this a brain that should be in school?” (I love the “knitted brain” in picture on right)
Let me tell you my little story. A few years ago after much discussion with an advisor, I went back to school at the local community college in Graphic Design. I loved all of it, though it was some of the hardest work, whether learning new and complex computer programs like InDesign, Illustrator and PhotoShop, or memorizing fonts for quizzes and tests, or learning to draw, carve a tile, or designing weird projects. One such assignment; design a snack for an animal. Okay so I chose the horse (because they’re large and scare me), and the snack- beer. I checked in with the owner of a store that sells what you need to brew your own, and he agreed my idea was realistic. So, off I went. The lesson was actually in package design, and here’s a picture of my finished product. Oh it was very hard work, and so much fun too. (That’s Bonnie on the right, I found her on flickr.com, and named her too.)
Sometime into the year and a half that I spent in school I realized what I would be up against in trying to start a graphic design career. I should have said, who I would be competing with; 25 year olds with so much computer savvy and art skill that I felt quite unable or is that unwilling to compete. Well, that’s what my emotions dictated. My brain said; go for it. But I didn’t.
Today I spent time refining my business card. Using InDesign, then exporting it into another format for printing. That’s after reviewing, re-doing, measuring, re-working it, and finally I’m very pleased with the result. The LAST result. I didn’t have to delve into the program, as I worked from an existing file, but I have remembered a lot and it’s very rewarding to dive back into the design programs and create something I’m happy to use to support my art work.
The article states that it’s not the amount or type of learning we accomplish in our “middle ages,” but pushing to learn in ways that push our neural pathways out of the rut we allow them. I like to think I’m still pushing my brain to grow, even when plans change.

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