Into my second week of my second class (Beginning Photoshop) at CCSF (Community College of San Francisco) and I’m finally hitting my stride on this Photoshop stuff. The first two classes, I stumbled out of each FIVE HOUR CLASS (twice a week!) eyes glazed, mouth dry and brain fogged. All we’d done is go through the menus and walked through the various features.

As of last Tuesday’s class it was all making a bit more sense, although I still harbor the subversive opinion that Photoshop allows you to correct stupid mistakes that you never should have made in the first place if you’d been more mindful about your photography. Pole “growing” out of someone’s head? Photoshop it out. Wrong white balance? Change it in Photoshop! Lots of noise and blurriness in your picture. Fix that puppy up in Photoshop!

I persevered, I did the homework and now I’m starting to get the hang of the program and actually see the possibilities. (Well, for instance, the aforementioned mistakes? Yup, I make ’em all the time.)

But what really keeps me coming back is the different way it makes my brain feel. Anyone who has spent sixteen or more years in school knows that the way we think in an academic setting and the way we think in our workaday life are completely different. After you settle into ten or more years of Work World, you look back on School World with the nostalgia of a former crackhead for the pipe. You miss that brain rush.

Hear me out here. With my first class, the hardest part in the beginning was to retrain myself to learn things from scratch. Which is the majority of what we’re doing in school. In WorkWorld, 90% of what we are doing is reprocessing existing knowledge to address various situations. I can say that coming from a field (advertising) where I seemingly had to learn new things every day. (Get a client who makes hard drives. Learn everything there is to know about the hard drive market. Get a client who does MIS consulting, learn everything there is to know about that.) Still, the core of my brain function revolved around taking what I already knew and reapplying it. Because face it, whether it’s tampons or hard drives or vacation packages, people buy for the same core reasons. The road you take them down to convince them your product fulfills those reasons has different landscaping, but you’re leading them down the same path. The result, I was still treading familiar ground for the most part instead of plunging into a new and exciting world of THINGS I DO NOT KNOW.

I can make a photo-collage with layers and objects I clipped
out of other photos.

Did I mention that scientists have now proven that it’s that “school” type of learning that actually makes your brain grow and staves off Alzheimers? (Yeah, I read that somewhere but can’t find the article to link to. Believe me, it’s true. Just Google: “continuous learning brain health” and see.) So after too many years with my mind operating like a gerbil on a treadmill, I was anxious to have it soar like a Eagle.

Anyway, I was glad that one of my favorite essayists, the incomparable Sarah Vowell, feels the same way I do. Especially because she can express it so much more articulately:

“I missed the random learning curve, how one day you’re counting haiku syllables and the next day they have you constructing solar-powered hot dog roasters out of tinfoil. Being a grown-up requires a twelve-month calendar, and that calendar is mostly filled up with doing things you know how to do.”

Yeah, Sarah, upward and onward to random acts of learning. I’m not sure if my brain is getting bigger. Or if I’m getting smarter. My brain certainly hurts after each class. Maybe those are growing pains.

NOTE. CCSF is still the best bargain in town. I’m learning Photoshop in a brand new state of the art computer lab, in the brand spanking new Mission Campus (which even has a daycare center) all for the bargain price of $85. Which is the same price you pay should you want to retrain for a Biotech career or learn MIS and other programming skills (which this campus specializes in.) This is truly our tax dollars at work for the best. Even a kid with NO money can get a top notch education here. Yeah CCSF! My new Alma Mater.

ANOTHER NOTE. Be sure you get a class with LOTS of young people. Glom on to one of them. Don’t segregate yourself off with the old farts. Well, actually, in my first class, Photography, some of us old farts were great to hang out with. But we were a minority, so our old fartiness was tempered by lots of 19 year olds. I’m serious, I’m convinced half the benefit of going back to school comes from hanging out with people who haven’t yet learned WorkThink and are still in SchoolThink.