The Trials and Tribulations Of Learning A New Computer Skill

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It all started several years ago when I walked out on a well-paid job of 11 years. I needed to get another job fairly quickly. My monthly mortgage repayments were pretty hefty. Something I hadn’t thought about during my dramatic exit.

I eagerly poured over the job columns in the newspaper. Yikes, every job required Microsoft Word. To get another job, I needed to learn a new computer skill. So what? There are loads of people “in the same boat” in this ever-changing world. If they can do it, so can I.

First, I had to decide how! Group classes didn’t work for me. At one, I got left behind – simply because I didn’t grasp one little point and wasn’t brave enough to admit that I, apparently, was the only one who hadn’t “got it”. At another, I actually knew more than others and felt frustrated listening to stuff I already knew. One-on-one training would be better, but too expensive.

My computer-whiz niece offered to help. She sat in my computer chair, took control of my mouse and went zap, zap, zap. All kinds of things appeared and disappeared on the screen at a fast rate. During all this activity, I stood behind her chair feeling quite dazed. Finally, she said with a smile “That’s how you do… whatever it was she was trying to teach me (I still don’t know)”. Her smile was replaced by an incredulous look when I said that she had lost me after the second zap. Needless to say, I didn’t pursue her kind offer any further and, as a result, we are still the best of friends.

What I really wanted to do was to learn at my own pace and at home. I decided to try the manual that came with my computer. At this stage, I was blissfully unaware of the terrors ahead.

I successfully started Microsoft Word and, then, clicked a couple of things. All of a sudden, I had a box on my screen that I couldn’t get rid of. What do I do now? The manual didn’t help. I was stuck and too scared to click anything else. I eventually rang a computer help line company I found in the Yellow Pages. Chris, the guy who answered, said to click the Cancel button in the box. I felt really stupid. Why didn’t I think of that?

Over the next 4 weeks, I spent a small fortune ringing Chris (the computer help line company charged by the minute) and he started treating me like a long lost friend. I just felt more and more stupid as most of the solutions were as simple as clicking the Cancel button! I remember thinking, thank goodness, he’s the only witness to my stupidity!

Eventually I discovered the Undo button. What a find! I could now undo any action I had taken. This made me feel heaps better. Then, an amazing thing happened. As I was able to do more and more things, thanks to Chris and the Undo button, I started to feel excited by what I was achieving and CONFIDENT. I still made mistakes (plenty), but I didn’t feel scared. Nor did I ring Chris. I was CONFIDENT that I could work it out on my own. And I usually did.

I went on to learn many new computer skills and they all featured some Microsoft Word tools and menu commands AND an Undo button! And, guess what, I became so thrilled with Microsoft Word that I went on and created three tutorials for computer novices.