In the Beginning

This journey is only just beginning in earnest.

Truthfully, I’ve dabbled in independent scholarly pursuits and autodidactism throughout the years. Beginning in adolescence, here and there in the 20s. Each time, I was consistently told that I needed a college degree to be “taken seriously”. It never sat well with me, sounding dismissive and pretentious. Frankly, it left a bad taste in my mouth. And likely an awful case of resting B face for a few days as I stewed over it moodily.

Well, after taking 5 years to achieve an Associate’s degree through obstacle after obstacle, and a distinct lack of support from anyone in my life or within the academic institution… I had nothing particularly kind to say about the American education system. In hindsight, I never did have anything nice or positive to say about the whole education system even right out of high school.

I’ll be rather blunt: it’s an absolute sh*tshow.

I could take up several posts in a multiple part series dedicated to all the issues and possible solutions, but that is a project for another day. Nevertheless, the higher education level of this horrible system is equally as awful as the high schools. These mass-produced rigid monstrosities are a joke, and one I don’t find very amusing. I truly find this concept offensive.

So, long story short:

I waited a whole year before attempting to enroll in a 4-year college to finish the second half of a Bachelor’s degree. After the experience of high school, and community college, and graduating in a pandemic. (Still never had a commencement.) The pandemic is sadly not over, and it’s not the fault of the responsible mask-wearing, social-distancing, vaccinated people. I happen to be one of them. However, as it continues to rage into a new phase with the Delta variant raising it’s ugly head – it’s not making an already difficult task (college) which is the most disappointing, dissatisfying, and downright frustrating experience ever, anymore enjoyable. Quite the opposite.

I’ve come to my own conclusion after quietly observing and contemplating my experience, and came to the realization that what I * actually * want to do as a vocation does not require a Bachelor’s degree. It’s occurred to me that I’m not living this life to walk the path everyone else has chosen. Plus, I could not give a flying fart in space about what ignorant and misinformed people have to say about it.

FEARS & INSECURITIES

I’m not going to sugar coat it: there are drawbacks to forging one’s own path, but especially when it comes to learning something. Anything, really. Before anyone has the audacity to point this painfully obvious concept out to me, I am already hyper aware of this fact.

Sure, the biggest issue would be finding reputable study material and enough sources across the subject matter to gain the depth and breadth needed to master a subject, and hopefully countering the formation of too many biases in my research. The second is a mentor or place to discuss and refine my understand or comprehension of the subject matter.

These aren’t deal-breakers, nor are they insurmountable odds. They can be overcome with a little creative thinking and some experimentation.

Does it take longer than walking the asphalt paved highway of university? Yes. Is it custom tailored to my lifestyle, neurodivergent brain wiring, and what I truly wish to do with my life long-term? Absolutely. I don’t think the fact that I might have to actually think a little harder or more critical and creatively than the average college student about the validity, relevance and intentions of my sources should stop me from taking my studies directly into my own hands.

THE SUBJECTS

Among my peers, most are aware of my nearly life-long fascination with history & culture, arts & languages, holistic lifestyle & wellness, and the Olde Ways.

I would, however, like to go deeper and get more definitive in my studies.

When it comes to history, culture, and languages: I’ve dabbled in the Mediterranean region in my adolescence and then the Far East in my 20s. Now, I’m coming back around to Europe, but shifting to the northwestern region. The Gaelic and Nordic lands. The languages I want to master most are Irish Gaelic (old and modern) and Faroese (the language of Faroe Islands and closest to Old Norse).

When it comes to the arts: I’ve also dabble in Photography over the years (the actual DSLR camera variety, not the iPhone stuff) and even took a course in community college. I’d like to get back into that and focus on three niches; lifestyle, conceptual/fine art, and nature photography. The second “art” focus is filming and editing for video content for my up and coming brand Rowan & Moss. There I plan to share everything I learn as an autodidact in these subjects! Tutorials, long-form video, and possibly short documentaries. Of course, writing – because… blogger. There always room for improvement and refinement in communication, self-expression, and articulation.

When it comes to the holistic arts & sciences: Here I’ve tasted and tested quite a few modalities, and found some of them rather lacking in substance or white-washed elitism, at the worst. I’ve settled on learning to properly and safely formulate my own skincare, hair care, cosmetics (and buy what I do not feel comfortable making from trusted brands) and also learn herbalism. Including that backed more by science. I’d also like to study more about women’s health, the infradian rhythm, parasympathetic living, and metabolic nutrition.  

When it comes to the Olde Ways: this is far more personal than the previous categories. It’s my spiritual practice and that falls into the realm of paganism. More specifically, Gaelic Polytheism. And with that comes devotional studies, learning the Gaelic and Celtic Olde Ways – and to some extent the Norse, as well. The study of Old Irish here is pivotal as it will allow me to actually read the surviving original texts before they were translated by Christian monks and told through the wrong eyes and tongues.

THE SYSTEM

I’ve learned that “goals” don’t work for me. And there is plenty of emerging research against the concept of goal-setting both old school and “new” school (basically just a fancy repackaging of old crap with bells, whistles, apps, and bullet journals). What works better? Creating systems. It feels hard at the start as it can take some time for them to set in, but if you have reminders and stick to it, it becomes easier. Like a habit, second nature. It essentially removes the issue of decision fatigue which reduces our motivation over the days, weeks, and months trying hard to attain a goal… and then not really feel all that great once we do. Because we put all this effort in for one specific thing, and didn’t do the thing to do the thing. Now what?

An endless chasing of the next goal and the next goal, and never any real sustainable fulfillment.

A system of study or practice will inevitably lead to mastery and excellence in the thing you desire to learn or experience. We now know what it is I want to learn. Then came the time to sit down and consider the system I would use to learn everything I stated above.

It took a week of thoughtful contemplation and realistically estimating what I could do in a day or a week. As I’ve decided to at least do my best to finish out this semester do I don’t get a massive bill, as colleges expect you to pay for them and I have financial aid, my time and energy will be more limited for the last quarter of 2021.

And as soon as this semester ends and the holiday season wraps up after the turn of the new year: it’s Game Time.

But what exactly would this system look like?

Reading, listening to or watching something on history & culture for 2-4 hours a day, more if I have the time/energy/hyper focus. Take notes, review often, find places to discuss these topics with others educated humans weekly.

Practicing Irish & Faroese each for 30 minutes a day.

Study basic formulation skills and ingredients weekly, craft first products and test them. Revise and improve. Fridays.

Practice the basics of Photography for 1-2 hours and study concepts in niches weekly. Mon, Wed, Fri.

Study basics of DLSR filming, Documentary filming and editing with Davinci Resolve 17 weekly. Mon, Wed, Fri.

Gaelic Polytheist devotional study on the weekends. Craft daily rituals and spiritual practice for during the week to develop personal relationship with Dagda, Danu, Manannan, and the Morrigan. Craft altar and sacred ritual space. Celebrate the Four Fire festivals. (Samhuin season is upon us 😉 )

In the midst of all that, I’ll weave in some Equine studies as I’m getting back into horseback riding, creating digital designs for an Etsy shop and Redbubble account, and physical fitness related habits.

I feel like I’ve run out of steam a bit, after all that! In fairness, this month got off to a weird start, a lot of stuff has happened, a week of classes and assignments just finished, and now I’m currently sitting here typing a blog post at 9 pm. I will be chronicling this process of being an autodidact and creatively pursuing my best, most educated life possible, and the ups/downs and other interesting developments along the way.

If others are interested in self-directed studies and more independent scholarly pursuits (and lifestyles) and want support or community around this lofty quest, watch this blog in the coming months. Or years.

There’s no turning back now!

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