My mom brought up an interesting question recently. It was about cultivating your intellect. She pointed out that, now that I’m finished with college, I’ll need to decide whether to continue pursuing activities that will expand me intellectually and academically. This hadn’t occurred to me before, since school has been such a large part of my life for so many years. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized that my intellectual pursuits have usually been based in my studies. I’ve always considered myself to be pretty naturally taken with scholarly activities, but although I love to read, I’m often consumed in books required for one of my classes. Similarly, my mind often wanders to complicated considerations about how the world works that are rooted in math problems I’ve solved or algorithms I’ve studied. Suddenly, with my academic career behind me, I wonder if I’ll continue to enjoy, and choose to engage in, these pursuits.
I considered the question once again when I came across this article about 25 things you can do every day to make you smarter. Many of the ideas listed are habits you would expect: reading, keeping up with the news, and playing chess. Others stood out to me as unique. For instance, the author suggests that the effort required to learn a new hobby, be it ballet or the violin, requires focus and discipline that boosts your intellect. And setting some time aside to do nothing can foster reflection and inspiration. I realized that cultivating your intellect doesn’t have to be a strict binary decision: extreme academic pursuits or nothing at all. Perhaps you’re excited to sit down with a long Russian novel or Latin tome, but even if you aren’t, there are plenty of other mentally stimulating activities that can keep your wheels turning.
I’m excited by the notion that I now have the opportunity to explore anything of interest. What I choose to read, or research, or think about, is no longer prescribed by a teacher or professor. The challenge is determining what you’re truly curious about. As it should, this will change throughout the course of life, providing plenty of opportunities to explore new concepts and disciplines. I look to my parents as exceptional role models in this regard, because they’ve both always kept up with a number of interests. Whether it’s my dad’s fascination with American history or the Italian mafia, or my mom’s dedication to the discipline of gardening, they remind me that when you’re in control of your own pursuits, there’s no longer any reason to force yourself to study a topic you don’t love.
I think back to all of the subjects that interested me as a student: theater, algebra, painting, Latin poetry, French art, and an intense devotion to young adult literature. I know that I can reapply myself to these topics whenever I feel the urge. But when I consider what I’m most curious about exploring at this time in my life, one subject that stands out is health and nutrition. I’ve always loved food, and was lucky to grow up in a household and town that put an emphasis on wholesome living. In college, this interest deepened thanks to my enthusiasm for blog-reading. Right now, I feel passionate about cultivating a balanced lifestyle for myself, and sharing what I learn with others. I’m excited to pick up new books on this subject, and one reason I started this blog was to document what I learn. Of course, this hobby will always be balanced by a decent dose of time spent reading new novels and traveling to new places. I’d love to hear: what subjects do you find most exciting to explore?