I’m getting smart in my advanced years ;)

lines changing direction on colorful backgroundI’ve been taking a couple of courses online (Coursera rocks, for the record), and I seem to have backed myself into a corner. I accidentally clicked the “Join” button for a second course that looked really cool, and I’ve been juggling two courses over the past three weeks, just barely keeping up with things, and not feeling like I’m able to really focus in and concentrate on what’s there.

This past week, things got hairy, ’cause one of the courses requires more understanding of electrical stuff than I “currently” have (sorry for the pun)  — currents and capacitors and resisters, etc. — and it also includes (gulp) scientific formulas! Oh, no… That’s not my strong suit, traditionally. I get so confused by formulas and abstractions like that. I’ve been working at the material almost daily, for the past couple of weeks, and I finally hit a wall this week. I failed the lesson – got 30%, which is far below the 80% required to pass. So, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

Failing first, then trying again is actually really good for my process. I typically have no idea what I know, and I often get “turned around” about what’s important detail, and what’s peripheral. When I take my tests, I often feel so confident that I’ve got it all mastered – then I find out, nothing of the sort is true. Failing first, then going back and trying again (and again) is a sure way for me to master the material — not least, because I can’t stand getting a 30% on anything. Especially after I was so, so sure that I had all the questions answered correctly.

So, it’s not a tragedy. It doesn’t stop me. It’s an important step that points me in the right direction. I sometimes have to re-take quizzes several times over, but by the time I get it, I own the material. And that’s very satisfying.

Anyway, I sank a lot of time into my most challenging course, this week, only to realize that it’s going to take me a long time to re-take all the sections of the lesson. And that won’t leave me much time to focus on the course that I originally wanted to take. So, in a stroke of brilliance (compared to my typically rigid, locked-on-target thinking), I checked whether I could postpone the really hard class till I had more time. Sure enough! I can!

So, I’ve shifted my class schedule to take the hard one later, after I make more progress with the first. The original one, which I’m really, really enjoying (except for that one segment where the instructor, who is a neurobiology professor) announced that autism is caused by faulty synaptic pruning, and said it like it’s a bad thing. Huh. How ’bout that. I’m not sure I would call it “faulty” — or if I’d even want to have my synapses pruned like neurotypical folks’ brains (assuming this is true). Why wouldn’t we want to have greater abilities than the “norm”, to make connections, to pick up signals, to engage with our world with greater depth and intensity?

Why, indeed?

Seems to me, the folks who can make more connections and think creatively in completely different ways, are the very ones who have actually made a difference in the world. Why would that be something “faulty”? And yet, somehow people think that giving us drugs to “help” our brains prune our connections, might be a good idea. Hm.

Anyway, that one burst of flaming intolerance aside, I’m enjoying the course. And now I can focus fully on it.

This postponement also gives me time to study up on the electrical stuff I need to know for the more challenging one, as well as get comfortable with formulas and what-not.

It’s all good.

And I’m very pleased with myself for getting past that rigidity that was making my life more stressful than necessary. I don’t mind stress. It keeps me sharp. But within reason. I’d also prefer that it’s relevant to my life, rather than a time and energy suck. I tend to get very black-and-white, stuck in “GO mode”, so the fact that I’m able to step back, assess my situation, and make a better choice is really encouraging progress for me.

Now, I’m off to shovel my back porch and driveway. We had more snow overnight, and it’s nice and cold outside, so this should be fun! 🙂 I love the snow. Especially when it’s bitter cold, and the white stuff is fluffy and light. Such a pleasure. Such a joy to play with… Off I go…


6 thoughts on “I’m getting smart in my advanced years ;)

  1. eclecticautistic

    That’s awesome; good thing to notice yourself learning. 🙂 It’s funny, too, because I woke up thinking about how I’ve been trying to juggle two programming classes at once (though mine are self-paced so it’s not at all required to keep up with an external schedule) PLUS trying to keep up with reading for a book club and my own other interests…and how all that has me really needing a day of deeper focus on just one thing. Think I’m going to do that today.

    Are you taking The Neurobiology of Everyday Life, by any chance? I took that on Coursera a couple of years ago and loved it. (Don’t remember if the professor mentioned autism, but I knew nothing about autism then so it probably wouldn’t have registered.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. VisualVox

      Yes, that’s exactly the class I’m taking. It’s so fascinating! Really, really good.

      I seem to be settling into the New Year, finally, figuring out how to pace myself with the new opportunities, combined with my past goals that have been on the back burner. It’s all very interesting, as long as I don’t get too attached to a specific outcome. Of course, passing quizzes is one outcome it helps to be attached to 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s been ages since I thought about synaptic pruning. I wondered why it was necessarily a bad thing. Whether that research had been done with various mental illnesses, particularly bipolar. Whether there was any way to distinguish which synapses were problematic. I had my own theories at the time, and yes, about creativity. I guess I’ll have to get back to it one of these days.Thanks for the link and the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. VisualVox

      I always have to take a pause to consider the concept of synaptic pruning. People seem so convinced that it’s a necessary thing, and that if it doesn’t happen, we want to be functional. At least, that’s how I’ve heard it described and characterized. But blocking a different way of developing neurologically, or flat out trying to prevent it, seems problematic to me. To say the least. Enhancing synaptic pruning to prevent autism seems like the rough equivalent of performing a frontal lobotomy on a disobedient woman. Same concept in my opinion.


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