I am a learner with a student problem. I have been a student at UC Davis my entire adult life. A week before my 18th birthday I packed all of my worldly possessions into plastic tubs stacked neatly in the back of my mom’s minivan and drove to my dorm room here at UC Davis. I got out of the car, made my bed with extra long twin sheets and my whole life changed forever.
15 years later, I am about to become a five-time graduate of this institution. Being an Aggie has been one of my greatest and proudest achievements. To be able to learn and grow in a place where I feel loved and challenged is why I have never been able to part from Davis. The teachers and mentors I have met along the way—those who encouraged me and helped me, are the reasons I have been successful here.
Throughout my tenure I have completed over 1000 quarter units and the running total of my tuition bill could buy a rather large house in the Midwest. I love learning and I take my commitment to education seriously.
I ring in the New Year not in January with champagne and a count down to midnight, but every fall with fresh notebooks, pens and the crispy crackle of new book bindings.
I believe fervently that education is the great equalizer. I believe in the hope and the promise an education can bring. And I have seen it. I have seen education change the lives of my friends and classmates. But we must remember that education only works in so much as we let it. A 2002 study from the US Department of Education found that disadvantaged children are often placed in low-resource schools, magnifying initial inequalities between them and their more advantaged peers before they have completed the first grade. If we are to be champions of life long learning, then we must make a commitment to prioritize and advocate for equitable and quality education from the start.
I’d like to tell you that being a professional student has always been wonderful and easy and joyful. But the truth is—like anything worth having in this life, its been hard and scary and I have known great failures and disasters along with my triumphs. Being a life long learner is not using a free afternoon to finish off a book you’ve been neglecting. But rather a commitment to forever trying things you are bad at, failing and a willingness to be humbled.
My recent venture in humility was during my anesthesia clerkship. The resident asked me to hand her the IV bag, and I was so excited that this was a task I felt that I could reasonably accomplish that I ripped the tubing off the bag and was promptly doused from head to toe in a liter of very cold saline. One of the many lessons I learned that day was that scrubs turn see through when they get wet.
To borrow from the adage in the Pixar film Ratatouille—‘anyone can cook,’—anyone can learn. Our brains are amazing, and adaptable and capable of way more than we think. By tolerating and dare I say, even searching for the edge of our comfort zone—where we learn and forget and learn again, get it wrong the first, and the second and if you’re a med student—the third time, until we finally get it right—that’s where the good stuff is.
And the best part is—it doesn’t matter what it is you’re learning about. With the internet and iphones, the world really is at our finger tips. So wherever you are in life, I hope you’ll join me in being a student. Let’s rev up out search engines, make mistakes and break in those book bindings. Pull up a chair. I’ll put the coffee on.