I was working a night shift and one of the other nurses was studying for a course. We had some quiet moments and she had curled up in a chair with her book. Being a little bored, I went and sat beside her, rearranging a few things on the shelves nearby. She turned to me with a question about a paragraph that she didn't understand. I agreed to look it over. Now here are some things I had stacked against me:
1. It was 5am, my brain was tired and somewhat fuzzy, not ready to take in much new info.
2. I have never taken the course she's taking.
3. I have not read any of the textbook she was reading through, and the paragraph was a good quarter of the way through one of the last chapters.
4. It involved an equation. Me and complicated equations don't always mix well.
But knowing she was stuck, I figured I could give it a shot. So I read through the paragraph and... about all I got out of it was that it involved an equation... my brain didn't even absorb what the equation was about. I tried reading the pertinent sentences only... That only confused me more!
Have you ever read something and your brain takes off on a different path while you're reading, and even though you've read it now, you haven't a clue what it said??? That's what it felt like. So I tried reading it again. And again. Suddenly I though I knew what it was saying. But as soon as I opened my mouth to explain it... All that came out was a bunch of nonsense that didn't add up. So I shut up and tried reading it again but didn't get any further. I even tried going back to scan other stuff, but it wasn't helpful. So I read the paragraph again, and again. By the time I'd read it at least 7 times, it finally made sense. In a way I could explain it to my friend.
And I learned something. Not about what I was reading and the equation to do with kidney filtration. No, I'd need to read more of the chapter to learn much there. More about persistence. And how the first time through often doesn't tell you much. It's like skimming though a page. You might have a basic understanding, but until you go over something again and again and again and again, it won't come through clear. You won't truly understand. It's like practicing. You learn something a little different each time you do it. Until at some point, the whole thing comes together in one glorious picture that is exponentially better than that first rough idea you had at the start.
Now time to be persistent about sleep. Maybe this time...