How To Learn Stuff If You Feel Stupid Since Leaving University
The Debrief: Feeling a little stupid of late? Here's how to kickstart your brain again
A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling incredibly smug. I had extricated a free festival ticket from my friend, and she’d offered me a lift, door to door (for me, life doesn’t get much better than door to door). As I swanned towards the car full of people, a voice from behind a pop-up tent barked, ‘God! Is that all you’re taking with you?!’ (For me, life doesn’t get much sweeter than a comment about how small my luggage is).
‘It’s only a couple of days isn’t it!’ I replied in a faux nonchalant way, pretending I hadn’t just spent 45 minutes debating whether to bring three or four cereal bars. Life was good.
I roosted in the back of the car between two of my best friends, Becca and Lily (hi guys, please share this article), and in the front were Anna and Andy (hi guys, please GOD stop reading this article). Anna and Andy are researchers for the TV show QI and were doing a live performance of the QI podcast at the festival. I don’t know Anna and Andy at all really, but by the end of the journey what I did know is that they are undisputedly better than me.
Anna and Andy are witty and charming and lovely, but more than anything they are so fucking, ridiculously smart. While I was cooped up in the back Googling pictures of Michelle Pfeiffer (that bone structure: <3), I earwig on their musings.
‘What d’you think the etymology of that town’s name is?’, ‘I derive that from the Latin word for...’, ‘I’m compiling a list of un-onomatopoeic words,’ ‘Did you know in their lifetime humans grow 590 miles of hair?’ (horrible but true).
I started wondering – when had I become such a fucking idiot? When did the notion of learning become irrelevant and nostalgic, like inflatable furniture, The Sims or fingering? When had my brain been replaced with a load of old soil?
I thought to myself, ‘You have the same amount of hours a day as Anna and Andy’ and therefore made a vow to integrate education into my everyday life and become a beautiful scholar. (I am uncompromising in my vanity – sorry, guys). Here are some tips that are helping me:
The Word of the Day app
Every day this android app alerts you to a new word and its definition. I challenge myself to seamlessly weave it into conversation that day, so as to really inculcate the word into my vocabulary (think it’s blatantly clear what the word was today).
The ‘Facts’ Instagram account
Lots of the information I’ve retained has actually been gained through procrastination. I got addicted to Sporcle and learnt all the states of America, when I was meant to be writing my dissertation. I genuinely think the reason I didn’t get a first was because I could never spell Massachusetts (that’s my eighth attempt).
When I left university and was supposed to be applying for jobs, I thought it was absolutely crucial to watch all 52 episodes of The Great War and The World at War and eat seven bowls of Jordan’s Country Crisp a day. After all it was Churchill who said, ‘The most important thing about education is appetite.’ (Anna, Andy, hello?)
On that logic, follow the account ‘Facts’ on Instagram. So in between stalking your ex with their new ex (hi guys, I’m not even talking about you, I’m talking about all my other exes, thanks) and smug foodie pics, you can stimulate those brain cells without even trying.
News alerts on your phone
Get news alerts set up from your favourite publication, letting you know the headlines wherever you are. That way when you’re at a gathering and someone mentions Greece and Austerity, you don’t have to mumble the word ‘Troika’ and rapidly fill your mouth with crisps.
Or when you’re in a circle of people and they start talking about Jeremy Corbyn, you won’t frantically interrupt with ‘Champagne socialist, oh on that note I need a refill’ and slide, sweating, out of the huddle to stand alone next to your unbranded bottle of vodka. Only me? OK.
The QI podcast
If it’s not going to shake your confidence in what you’re doing with your life, you should listen to this podcast. You can expect gentle, academic jibing between the hosts and don’t for one second think they’re afraid of an innuendo about the varying sizes of comets.
With it being a podcast you can picture them how you like. For me, they’re four excitable hobbits gathered under a bridge, admiring and swapping their weekly facts like an exchange of freshly baked Lembas bread. (You can Imagine how crushed I was when I had to share a car with two of them – never meet your hobbit heroes).
The Art Gallery app
Oscar Wilde says that ‘Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has ever seen.’ For that reason, I urge all of us to immediately download this app. While you heat up your lame leftover lunch in the microwave, you can feed your soul (sort of) by meandering down the virtual art gallery. Perusing the prodigious paintings, click on one that takes your fancy and it will tell you who painted it.
Mmmm, enlightenment and reheated nondescript rice dish.
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Follow Phoebe on Twitter @phoebewalsh17
Picture: Maurizio Di Iorio
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