I recently taught myself how to crochet. A couple of things inspired me to learn, like coverage I’ve done of Torri Hanna’s Tangles to Treasures coupled with many of my friends being really into it when I was in high school, but seeing some crocheted bags at the Holiday Art and Artisan Market made me want to try my hand. In the last two weeks I’ve made two bags and started a scarf, having learned how to single crochet, double crochet and shell stitch. I’m excited to keep learning and trying more things like changing yarn colors throughout the project, crocheting in the round and crochet ribbing, as well as trying more complicated projects.

I enjoy learning new skills — before crochet, I taught myself to read tarot cards because of an exhibit at Kaddatz Galleries that featured the cards in the major arcana as designed by print artists. I taught myself how to edit videos, how to use programs like Photoshop and InDesign, how to create 3D models of buildings found on Google Earth, how to use javascript to make more complicated games in RPG Maker and more. Not for any practical reasons like I needed to learn for work or class, but because it was something I wanted to try. Sometimes I do get to use these skills for work or school, but I’ll admit that half the time it means I do about three times as much work as I really needed to just because I wanted to make something special or interesting.

I think everyone should work on learning new things, even if there’s no professional or financial benefit for them to. I know it’s easy to fall into a daily routine and that it can be hard to find free time, but, honestly, I do most of these things while doing something else — I crochet while watching episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and just pause it if I need to look up a new stitch on YouTube.

If you can learn something related to what you enjoy doing then it’s probably even easier. If you cook dinner every night, try learning a new recipe or a new technique for something. If you want to buy your wife or girlfriend flowers, look up some tips on flower arrangements and the meaning behind different flowers and plants. 

Learning to do something is nice because then you have evidence of what you’ve worked on, solid proof of success, but just learning new information can be rewarding. I feel like we’re in a golden age of documentaries — Werner Herzog and Ken Burns, of course, have been putting great things out for decades, but the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu means there’s a whole new generation of amazing filmmakers getting platforms they wouldn’t have had before with topics in new and unique fields. Podcasts like Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” take an in-depth look at events and people in history or “On Being with Krista Tippett” provides new insights into philosophy and metaphysical topics. Apple has an entire collection of podcasts called “Learn Something New.”

Keeping your brain active with puzzles and learning has been shown to help keep people articulate and cognizant into their later years so, aside from the mental-health benefits of feeling a sense of accomplishment and the social benefits of having new things to talk about with people, there’s also the physical benefits of keeping your brain on its toes, so to speak. The Information Age began in the 20th century and I think we should all be taking advantage of it.

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