I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biology about 32 years ago. Since then I've accomplished a lot, I went to medical school, did a residency, and built up a respected and successful medical practice. And in that time I've forgotten all I learned those many years ago.
I ended up becoming a physician because I had a deep love of the elegance of science. Everything I learned had this incredible logic and my passion that drove me was to explore and learn. Somehow as the years have gone by I have forgotten all that great knowledge.
Have you ever wondered if you went to school now would it feel different? I was so goal oriented in school sometimes I worry that I missed something about the magic of learning. I even have feared that trying to learn again would be so difficult at this point in life that I might become discouraged or frustrated.
I also worry about my mind becoming stale and unwelcoming to new ideas. I know that studies show that if we don't keep our minds stimulated there is a much greater risk of dementia. I read a lot but passive thinking is not nearly as effective at mental simulation as an active task. Puzzles and mind games have been proven to decrease the pace and even reverse cognitive decline. Unfortunately, mind games bore me. About the only time I can tolerate them is on an airplane. I listen to stimulating radio shows like TED talks, Freakonomics, and others but I still feel I need to do more.
One thought I had was to see if I could remember my old science education. I tried to remember everything I could about biology, physics, chemistry, and math. I realized I just couldn't recall chemistry or any of my higher mathematics. So, I decided to explore what was available on the Web.
Many of you probably know this, but I was not aware that the Khan Academy has essentially all of the lectures for college courses including all of the basic sciences. So about 2 weeks ago I went back to college and began studying chemistry again.
Fortunately, I discovered I haven't lost my knowledge I have only misplaced it in some dark corner of my mind. Each lecture brings back that knowledge and as it does I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I find it ironic that I am so excited to relearn concepts like ionic and covalent bonds or how the elements interact or how to solve a stoichiometric equation.
In a very short time I have already completed about 6 weeks of learning. Obviously, I am at a distinct advantage, I did learn this all before. But, the rememory process is highly stimulating. I am convinced I will keep going until I have repeated all of those courses. I will probably toss in a few I never experienced before as well.
I would probably repeat my medical school course as well if they are available. Am I crazy? I don't think so. The second time around I get to see how this knowledge I am using on a daily basis fits. The first time learning I was so focused on cramming the knowledge in to my head so I could excel on exams but this second time I get to see the true practicality of it.
My mom asked me today if I see how chemistry fits into the practice of medicine. What I notice is that I don't think directly about the science but I realized that the problem solving process is similar. All those years of studying S and P orbitals actually makes a difference.
So while all of you are frolicking this weekend there is a very good chance my mind will be buried in a lecture on chemical equations. We'll see who had more fun!