When brain cells go to sleep

Posted: June 15, 2011 in Reflections
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a detail of a page from William Morgan's 1588 ...

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I see myself as a pretty well-educated woman. I went to a good secondary school and after that continued to university and have two degrees to show for it. Was I a top of the class student? No. I am no genius nor am I intellectually challenged. I enjoyed learning and it did come to me pretty easily. When I left school I could have a conversation in 5 different languages, translate texts from Latin, have discussions about philosophy, history and in-depth sociological analysis etc. I devoured scientific magazines and was pretty aware of the state of the world in general.

All good yes..? So what has happened? Today I have lost the ability to communicate in 2 of the 5 languages I once knew. Forget Latin. I stumble when I try to remember what I once learned. It actually feels like I have become dumber. The only focus is to learn new things that are work related and even there I sometimes struggle. It is like my brain has developed a teflon shield that makes all new knowledge slide off into oblivion.

It is easy to say “oh just start reading up on everything again and it will come to you in no time”… well that is part of the problem I guess. I have no time to do so or I am so tired that I just cannot focus after work. I really admire anyone who studies in addition to holding down a full-time job.

So at one stage I developed this theory that working actually makes people dumber. In school you are constantly challenged in  many different subjects. There is always something new and wonderful. You discuss, analyze and apply what you learn. There is a never-ending stream of knowledge. In work-life… you focus on your work and the skills needed there. That is all you focus on. It becomes one-sided. Unless you can find a way to continue to grow your knowledge in other subjects and exercise your brain – the ability to learn and adapt is diminished.

I feel I have definitely fallen into this stage for a long time now. It has gotten to a point where I feel embarrassed. Feeling stupid is not something I do well. The worst thing is when a discussion is started and when I KNOW that this is something I used to know a lot about but the words fail me or the details do not appear. Ugh… hate that!

I think I will have to dust of those old books from university and actually make myself reconnect my brain cells again. Because moaning about it is not going to help really is it now…

Now why did I not stay in uni and do a PhD instead…?

  1. Fantasminha says:

    Working does make you dumber, I too am convinced of that. However, I think it does for a different reason. As the old saying goes: a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until s/he knows everything about nothing. This is what work does to us. By its very nature, to get ahead in todays organizations we have to specialize more and more and it takes our whole brain to hold all that minutiae. I don’t bother to remember almost anything these days except how to get home (even then I sometimes use a GPS) and where to find all the information I need on a daily basis. I miss going to night school because it was the challenge that really made everything else worth it. Maybe one day I will get back there–maybe you too!

  2. Fantasminha says:

    Yes, but it means actually remembering to buy the lotto ticket!

  3. I always chalked my sleepy brain cells up to having kids, but maybe, it’s just an age thing? (I was, after all, 31 when my first was born!) Though since having kids, my consumption of wine has increased, um, ten-fold or so, so perhaps that is the real culprit?!! ; )

  4. That’s a part of “working”, I guess. Forgetting what is learning is all about, just getting by and eventually, it becomes a very narrow focus. Hmm… going back to uni is an option I wouldn’t mind considering, but who would bring the bread to the table ?!! Night school is a possibility but each day is just 24hrs…

  5. Nikki B says:

    Oh man, I totally hear you! I used to remember things, retain info… and now? Huh? I learned that once, I swear… Ugh. I fully support your hypothesis that working makes you dumber.


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