Waste of time

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Can learning become pointless?

When I was in my 8th grade (around 30 years ago), my focus was only on two things – studying and playing.  I was in bliss as it was going great without much worry about anything else.  That’s when my dad advised me to go for typewriting classes as it would help me to get a job when I grew up.  For the benefit of smartphone generation, who may not be familiar about typewriting, it’s a skill that was taught in an institute using typewriter.  Those typewriters were machines and the typing was imprinted on a sheet of paper using ribbons in various colours like black, blue and red.  This skill was typically required for a typist or a stenographer to type letters for the business or office use.

When my dad told me to go for the typewriting classes, I agreed for it not knowing that I had to go early in the morning, at 5.30 a.m., to attend the classes.  That was a compromise on the precious sleep which I used to enjoy till 7 a.m. and then wake up to get ready to catch the school bus at 7.30 a.m.  Having enrolled for the typewriting classes, I didn’t have much choice but to get up very early and go for the classes.  Initially, I felt very mechanical to go through the training, as I was required to type same set of keystrokes on sheets of papers for practicing.  The ultimate test was the test conducted by the governing body to assess the proficiency levels.  The tests would be conducted once in six months and for the successful candidates certificates would be awarded.  Therefore, in a way, it was one more examination that I had to undergo.

I was reluctant to go through the entire course as I was clear that I never wanted to be a typist or a stenographer.  However, my dad suggested that I do this course as a backup in case I don’t get any other job.  As an obedient child, I went for my typing classes and slowly I developed interest for the entire course.  I went on to complete three levels of proficiency in English typewriting and also two levels of proficiency in Tamil typewriting.  All this happened over a period of three years.  By then, I was ready to go to college to pursue my commerce degree, which I decided to focus on.

Over six years passed, I almost forgot typing as I lost touch with it.  Moreover, in my work I was not required to type at all.  At that point in time, as I looked back I felt it was a complete waste of time that I spent precious early mornings for three years to learn typing.  That was when I got the wonderful opportunity to go to the Middle East to work in a multinational corporation that would enhance my professional competencies.

As I joined the new organization, I was handed over with a box called laptop.  It was an Apple Mac laptop and I was told that I need to use it to do my work.  I was curious to open the box and understand how it worked.  To my amazement, the keyboard of the laptop was an exact replica of the typewriter that I was familiar with.  I was thrilled to gain back my typing skills.  More importantly, it helped me to learn to use computer more rapidly.  I used to take pride in preparing my reports much faster than my colleagues, as they had not learnt typewriting as much as I did.

Knowing the keystrokes of typing helps significantly in the speed of typing and more importantly it takes very less effort to concentrate on the typing as compared to the content which is more important from the perspective of using computers.  All my colleagues and bosses used to wonder at my proficiency levels of using computers.  This basic skill of typewriting helped me to embrace the change of using computers.  Today, it is almost impossible to imagine the daily life without the use of the keyboard which is used in computers, laptops, mobile phones, smartphone, tablets and so on.  What appeared as a waste of time at one point in time came as one of the biggest strengths for me to do my job today efficiently.

As I think through, there have been several other situations where I considered something as a waste or spending time on knowing something as a complete waste of time.  It is only by the passing of time I realized some of them were useful later.  When I read history as a subject in school, I thought it was a waste of time to know about the past of others and more painfully remembering so many dates and years.  Now I understand that it is only by reading history, I got the inspiration to become a history maker.  By memorising so many dates and years of historic events, I have got the natural tendency to remember multiple, complex topics effortlessly.

By doing something, I get the benefits immediately, whereas for something I would get later.  What I learned in the entire process is that I must focus on my doing rather than worrying too much about the benefit out of it.  The beauty is that it takes some time to learn something, but the utility of the learning would remain in us forever.  In that sense, there is nothing called waste of time as long as I keep learning from every moment in this lifetime.

As Mahatria says, an experience is given to us only when it is required.  Life is not about dissecting the past; it is indeed about building the future. Time is very precious and nothing is going to be a waste of time.  Let us strive to leverage the experiences to lead life peacefully.

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