Prologue: On the way home from a midnight birdwatching session, I saw two tawny owls. First one by the side of road, and another atop a lamp post. Beautiful birds, calmly staring back at me. The myth is that old dogs can't learn new tricks. The truth is, we can, but we might need a bit more coaxing. And coffee.
Last year, I was forced to switch jobs and with that, learn a whole new set of skills. I was wondering how my then 53-year-old brain would handle it. Turns out, it handled it just like a 23-year-old brain would: With patience, notes, and lots of coffee and candy. Because heavy-duty learning is exhausting! I hadn't realized that. I just thought you're tired in college because of not enough sleep or something. Turns out you're tired because learning several new things every single day is like running a marathon every single day—but brains need more energy and more recovery time than bodies do.
The brain marathon hasn't ended. There's always something new to learn, previous knowledge to hone and the teaching of others. Like when we got the Windows 7 update at work this past week.
I spent the better part of Wednesday, tweaking settings for myself and a couple of co-workers, trying stuff first then guiding them through the new things. My fearlessness is driven by satisfying my curiosity. The saying goes, "Curiosity killed the cat. Satisfaction brought it back."
At home, where I use Apple products, I happily updated both OS X and iOS with my usual trust and abandonment. Over 20 years of reliable updates will do that.
Then I plugged in my Samsung camera to unload photos, and had a firmware update to do there. Which I've done before, too.
But the biggy was the OS update to Lollilop on my Android phone. I found myself dealing with an operating system and world I wasn't familiar with, and on a device I did not want to brick. So while I searched for information on the update, I wondered whether or not to just ignore it or at least join an Android forum somewhere. Turns out you can't ignore the Android update (you can, but only for a maximum of 3 hours at a time, not forever), and the Android world is so full of different phones, carriers and versions that I could see joining a forum might be a waste of time, not an aid.
Eventually I found a way to back up my Galaxy Note 3 (the app SmartSwitch), and after having read a few posts on what others had experienced, I made a second double coffee for myself and updated my phone. It actually went without a hitch. Success! Whew! Another win for this middle-aged woman.
We were talking about this at work, about how we who entered the work force in the 80's will be the first generation of seniors not baffled by computers and therefore will not be thwarted by technology; we already netbank. But that said, I can see that being able to handle updates myself is and will be a huge advantage. And perhaps a way to keep my brain active.
Epilogue: An artist was working on a charcoal drawing. From where I was sitting, the owl was looking straight at me, not unpleasantly, but rather like an invitation. In Celtic myth, the owl represents the old woman, the wise crone, the future for us post-menopausal women. Perhaps wisdom is exactly what is needed for updating computers. I will ask the owl later. I am buying that picture.