Sunday, 31 December 2017

What I Learned in 2017

Back when I was still teaching, we talked a lot about helping kids to become lifelong learners. Our students graduated from high school and headed out into a world in which it was increasingly difficult to know things, because 'things' were always changing. They would undoubtedly learn how to do one job, only to find that in a few years they'd have to learn a totally different job, or several different jobs over the course of their working life. And as teachers we knew that learning how to be a good learner is invaluable in a rapidly changing world. Invaluable for kids. And for everyone, really.

So in that vein, here's what this lifelong learner learned this year. 


About Travel:


gravel road twists around sharp rocky peaks
Ruta 40 was all gravel between Cafayate and Cachi in northern Argentina

Never be afraid to take the rough road, or go the long way round. Most of the time it's worth it. We saw some amazing places on this back road in Argentina last winter: from Salta, to Cafayate, Cachi, and then back to Salta. Beautiful scenery, bleak vistas, surprisingly lush valleys, and not a few hair-raising twists and turns.

But remember... and this is an important distinction... you don't have to prove anything to anyone. Do only as much as you want; go only as far as you want, and no farther. Travel is tough enough; don't turn it into an endurance test. 

I actually learned this years ago on our first trip to New Zealand. For the first week, we rushed around like idiots trying to squeeze activities into every moment of each day. When I finally got sick, we were forced to slow down. And only then did we really begin to enjoy ourselves. On this hike up Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado in Patagonia last February, Hubby and I decided that we really didn't want to walk for another hour to get to the top. This was a lovely spot for lunch. And when we'd eaten, and gazed at the view, we turned and made our way down. This is what experience has taught me... you don't have to do everything... there will always be another trip. 

rocky scree and a lake below with sharp snow covered mountains in the distance
The view an hour short of the summit of Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado
I learned this in Peru last March. Always read the fine print, or the translation, on the menu. Ha. And when in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions. 

menu board in Spanish with English translations.
Menu board for a restaurant in Arequipa, Peru. Note the fifth item from the bottom.
Always appreciate your travel companion. They're paddling as hard as they can. Be aware of their limitations, or their circumstances. Be patient. Be kind. And don't judge them harshly when they don't meet your expectations. 

In 2015 when Hubby and I travelled to France for a month, he'd just weathered a very difficult spring with a major shoulder injury, several misdiagnoses, and with the prospect of complicated surgery when we returned home. I knew he would not be at his best. Much like I was not at my best during my trip to England this fall, when I was still grieving my brother's death, and so was easily fatigued, weepy at times, and unable to handle the stress of travel with my usual good humour. 

woman and man in hats and sunglasses fishing from a canoe
Paddling and fishing on the Bonnechere River last summer.
Don't forget that while travel to new and exotic places is wonderful, sometimes going back to familiar ones can be balm for the soul. We return to this spot along the Little Bonnechere River at least a couple of times a year.

sunny day, blue sky, and old cement piers in a river.
The view from the bridge over the Little Bonnechere River

About Friendship:


New friends come in all shapes and sizes, and through many different avenues these days. This year, I've met new friends through this blog, through my book club, and on our travels. In South America last winter we met numerous hard-working, kind, and unfailingly cheerful people who had much to teach us, if only by example.

woman, and two kids, with a kitten
Me, Mary, her little brother, and his new kitten, on the way to Colca Canyon, Peru
Always remember, new or old, your friends are invaluable. However, supportive friends are the only ones you want in your life. I learned in 2017 that if someone doesn't want to be my friend, that's okay. If it becomes clear that they patently don't "get me," then I've decided that I am too old to beat my head against that particular wall. 

The card below makes me chuckle and think of my friend Marina, from whom I sought support many times this year. She is always kind, and she always says the right thing. 


picture from the Edwardian era showing two women in white dresses
Sometimes you just need a little positive reinforcement from your friends.

About Loss:


No matter how prepared you think you are, when someone close to you dies, you're never really prepared. This year I learned from supportive friends and family that when you're grieving it's important to be kind to yourself. 

About family:

Family are the people you love. Period. I guess I always knew this deep down. But it was driven home by my experiences following my brother's death, when I was reminded how joyful it is to be around people who are family, even when they aren't related to me at all. 

woman in white suit and a bridal bouquet, holding hands with man in jacket and tie
That day back in 1989 when Hubby became Hubby, so to speak. 

About Life:

Hard work, and the satisfaction that comes from doing a job to the best of your ability, can be its own reward. Or the corollary of that, financial remuneration is not the only compensation for one's work. Money is not the only measure of success.

Since I've been writing this blog, I've thought often about whether I should "monetize," accept money for posts, or place ads on the blog. And I've decided that it's not for me. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge other bloggers making money from their work. It's just that making money is not why I started writing a blog. I don't want the hassle of keeping track of that end of things, nor do I want to spend my time doing so. My blog is a very important part of my life, but it can't be my whole life. Otherwise, if I ascribe to Hemingway's idea (and I do) that "to write about life first one must live it," then what the heck would I write about if all I did was work on my blog? So I've decided to look for other ways to achieve success with my writing. I don't know what they are yet. I'll have to get back to you on that. 

Be grateful for what you have. I learned in 2017 how privileged I am to live the life I do. How grateful I should be, how grateful I am, that I "won the birth lottery," as our American friend so aptly said that night in Ollantaytambo, in Peru. I've been lucky enough to have had a rewarding career, which has allowed me to retire, and be financially stable enough to do pretty much what I want to do. Like travel to places in the world where I can meet people who can teach me to feel gratitude for what I have. 

About Myself:

I guess the most important thing I learned in 2017 is that you never stop learning about yourself. I knew that already, of course. But I'd become a bit complacent. I thought I had myself all figured out. Ha. Turns out you can learn all kinds of things about yourself in your sixties. About self-confidence, and how it can be shaken by small things. About your judgement, about recognizing when you've been wrong, and the feeling of a weight lifted when you simply admit it. It's okay to be wrong. The world doesn't end. Sheesh. What a relief.

The other thing I've learned this year is that confrontation won't kill me. I have always ascribed to something that my sister told me years ago: we can't control the behaviour of other people, only of ourselves. And to that end I always, always look to myself first in dealing with any problem or difficult situation. As a teacher in the classroom, as a head in dealing with my department, as a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, whatever role I'm in, I always look at my own behaviour first. This can be a good thing to do. It forces us to look critically at ourselves, to not blame others first, and helps to avoid unnecessary conflict and confrontation. It's good for teachers, principals, and bosses or leaders of any kind to look to themselves first. It's also a good thing to teach kids to be responsible for their own behaviour, to not blame everything on someone else.

But taken too far, this habit can force us to bear the burden of guilt for every situation. And allow us to escape confrontation that might be necessary. It can turn us into "pleasers," as a friend said to me recently. And I have always been too much of a "pleaser." I had no trouble facing conflict in the classroom. And while I didn't enjoy it, I would not run from confrontation in my department, or in other professional capacities. But on a personal level? Well, that's a whole other kettle of fish. But this year I've learned that after examining my own behaviour, I am able to call people out, to say: "Nope that's not my fault. Your behaviour is unacceptable." 

Yes, folks, I've learned I can do that, and lived to tell the tale. Ha. In fact, it feels wonderful. At sixty-one years old, five months away from sixty-two, I think I've just learned to stand up for myself. Wrinkly neck and all. 


woman in black and cream top with her hands on her hips
Almost sixty-two, and learning to stand up for myself.

I learned plenty in 2017. I know I'm not alone; I'm sure that many of you have learned harder lessons than I have this year. Today I did a quick search on-line to see who's writing about what they learned this year. Joanna Goddard asks the question "What Did You Learn This Year?" on her blog A Cup of Jo, and gets all kinds of interesting responsesOn Man Repeller, Megan Velong writes sensitively about what she learned about herself this year as she coped with infertility issues. And there's this article: 2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege, which is a really smart and honest analysis of how the political and social issues of 2017 have changed the mind of a self-confessed "smart-alecky conservative." Seems that lots of people are life-long learners. 

So, that's about it for 2017, my friends. Tomorrow is another day, and as Scarlett O'Hara didn't say, another year. 

I wonder what we'll all learn in 2018.



What have you learned this past year my wise and wonderful bloggy friends? Do tell us. Pretty please.





This week I'm joining Thursday Favourite Things Link Party and #Saturday Share Link-up 

34 comments:

  1. Well, Sue, I come to you for a good, soulful and honest read and that is what I get and, indeed, this is something I've learned this year! And if that is what unmoneterisation (should be a word!) beings then I thank the system for giving you the career to give you that option and thank you for being the person whose integrity holds true power.
    I've always loved learning, learning anything is learning, as my dad taught me. I feel so frustrated when I feel I'm stagnant. I feel vibrant, refreshed when learning something new. But as I age I've learned that it's not all about learning new tricks or new information, it's learning to truly understand. Understanding brings greater compassion and empathy. And that in itself brings learning.
    Oh and BTW, I love that black dress look!
    Thank you, sincerely, for 2017.

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    1. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence, Mary. Hope you have a wonderful 2018, too. xo

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  2. Pouting Pensioner put that very well ( you & Frances are my favourites , probably no coincidence that you both taught ) I find most of the blogs run on financial lines bland & impersonal . Rather like the glossy magazines I don’t care for anymore . So much buy , buy , buy . Not for me .
    Lovely wedding picture - I don’t know how you manage to look the same as you did 28 years ago , apart from your shoulders shrinking of course , but that’s happened to all of us .
    I really agree about cutting the people from your life that drag you down . I don’t like confrontations & always want everyone to get along but there has to be a line drawn . I’ve learnt that some people are impossible to please . Which is their problem not ours .
    On a lighter note , this year I’ve learnt I’m still capable of cooking Christmas dinner for ten . I was nervous but all was edible , hubbie & I didn’t fall out & I didn’t need to go for a lie down .
    All the very best for 2018
    Wendy in York

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    1. Ha. I do not look like I did 28 years ago... but you lie very well, my friend. Like the proverbial rug:) And speaking of lying...or not as the case may be. So glad that your Christmas dinner did not do you in. Hope you had a lie down afterward, though, while everyone did the dishes and cleaned up.

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  3. So many things learned this year, not all good, not all bad. Number 1: you can decide not to do stuff that is expected of you and nobody will actually die. You might not be popular but you might just be happier. Number 2: lending a hand when asked is good. Number 3: being around so people who are suffering can vent in a safe space is good too. That is usually all they need. Number 4: actually saying to others - you are not my job - is very satisfying. Hard to argue with that. Number 5: If I don't want to, then I won't. I am aiming to take all of these forward into the next year and make them a bedrock for what happens. It all sounds rather bleak, reading it back, but it isn't and it wasn't. Becoming 60 was a great trigger for deciding not to do things rather than deciding to do things. I concur heartily with the travel analogy; go as far as you want and no farther. It has been a quick year. Let us all forge onwards into the next. A peaceful and happy New Year's Eve to you, blogging pal.

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    1. It takes some time after retirement from teaching to not jump to volunteer for whatever needs doing. Committees? We're there. Coaching something we know absolutely nothing about? Running this club or that? Nobody to organize the staff party? Okay...we'll do it. Knowing that if I don't keep on running the school newspaper it will stop existing. Ha. I stopped and so did it. Felt guilty for a while. Schools run on the unpaid work of teachers. A fact of which I'm sure you're so very aware. Now if I don't want to... like you... I'm not doing it. Whatever it is.
      Thanks for your continued reading of my blog. I tried to make a comment on yours today, but Google was not co-operating. Just wanted to say Happy 2018. And stuff.

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  4. So much, so much, so much . . . not ready to pull it all together, at least no here, but it's been a surprisingly learn-y year, considering it's my 65th. . . (did I think I'd maybe know it all by now?)
    The lessons you relate here all testify to your wisdom and sense of humour and discernment. I wish you a Happy 2018, which I'm sure will offer many opportunities to put the lessons to work ;-)

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    1. Yes, you have had a big learning curve this year, haven't you? Hope that 2018 is all about settling into your new rhythm, and continuing to find joy in your new situation.
      I hope to practice my new skills this year. But I do hope that the managing confrontation one doesn't get too much practice. Since we're having some major work done on our house, I fear I may have to trot that one out every now and then in the next few weeks:)
      Happy ongoing travels:)

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  5. Happy New Year Sue and all the best in 2018!
    This learning thing just never ends! The good thing is, I'm very open to learning. I'm a listener and an introvert. I think at 63 I have finally come to accept this. I really can't change it, I've tried but it's me. What's great is all the different blogs available to read and know you're not alone. Information is key.
    I agree with Wendy.... Lovely pic!
    I'll be taking a peak at the blogs above....sounds like enjoyable reading for my evening tonight!
    Robin T



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    1. Thanks, Robin. Hope you and yours have a wonderful 2018. And thanks for being such a loyal reader.

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  6. Such a wonderful thoughtfully written post.

    It has been my experience that travel teaches us many things about ourselves and it didn't fail me this year.

    I learned I have what it takes to survive a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong while trapped in an area large enough for a ten year old. I will never again be taking the window seat!

    I learned that Hong Kong far exceeded my expectations and I should try to avoid all preconceived ideas.

    After 26 years of marriage I've learned that I am fully capable of living on my own. Our marriage is strong enough to withstand my husband's current job situation living on the other side of the world. It's not our first choice but we are making it work and we are both stronger for it.

    I've also learned that I cannot always count on friends to follow through and I should always have a back up plan.

    Happy New Year Sue!

    Suzanne

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    1. That must be tough living apart so much of the time. OMG I hate those long, long flights. My longest was 12 hours from LA to Sydney... I think. It was one time we travelled to Australia and New Zealand. If you're not sitting beside someone you know... and can feel comfortable asking to move...you do feel trapped. Oh.. the hours drag by, don't they?
      Hope you have a great 2018. And next time I'm in Toronto let's go for coffee or lunch.

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  7. Thank you for providing much enjoyment this year as I became more sedentary due to many months of chemo and immune treatments. You and other bloggers are windows to the worlds of fashion, travel, and literature that I might otherwise miss. This year has taught me that gratitude is the greatest gift to both givers and receivers.

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    1. I'm so happy that my blog provided a little diversion. Hope that 2018 is better for you than 2017 was.

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  8. Your blog is a fantastic,intelligent place,full of great posts and lovely people
    I love to learn and I've learnt a lot-about me,other people and "the bare necessities of life",as Baloo would say
    Some lessons were more painful than the other: for the first time in my life, I had to admit that I couldn't save the people I love and that I have to let my father go.....after a very long illness and a really horrible year.
    Happy New Year to you and Hubby and all the best in 2018
    (your wedding photo is so sweet :-))
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks Dottoressa. I'm so sorry to hear about your father. How helpless you must have felt especially in your circumstances, being a doctor! Hope that 2018 is a better year for you. Sending New Years hugs!

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    2. Hi Dotoressa, so sorry to hear about your father ... it must be such a difficult time for you. Sending love and hugs and wishes for a more settled, happy and healthy 2018.
      Rosie

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  9. Sue, everyone has said it so well. I think gratitude is what has resonated most with me. I feel so fortunate to have been able to travel to places that I love. Also, to be able to live in small corner of the world that sometimes does not feel quite real and is out of step with the World at large...yes and acceptance also, of myself after all this time, even my curly hair.
    Thank you for all of your thought provoking post.
    Ali

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    1. Thanks, Ali. I'm still working on the hair acceptance thing:)

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  10. Lovely thought provoking post and I concur with other comments. I think life is one long learning journey and we are richer for it. I feel sad when people feel that as they age they don't need to learn anything new. I am grateful to be able to travel and do things that I enjoy and as a consequence continue to learn. Each year I try to do better at being a better person, accepting and letting my children follow their own path, easier said than done, and this year learning that I am now part of the older generation in my family as the last of the older generation in my family passed away.

    Great pics and those mountains are memorable - what a place for a picnic. All the best to you and hubby in 2018.

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    1. Thanks, Christy. When I get frustrated that I have to master something new... especially tech stuff... I remember that my Mum had not even touched a computer until she was 84. Now at 90, she e-mails, and surfs the web, and reads my blog.
      Happy New Year to you too.

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  11. I always enjoy your posts. I'm so grateful to you for turning me on to writers I'd never heard of before. You have given me many hours of pleasure. I love what you learned this year. It all resonates with me. So wishing you the best in the New Year !

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    1. Thanks, Sandra. Hope you have a wonderful 2018. And thanks for reading.

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  12. There is so much wisdom in your reflections on 2017, Sue. The issue of confrontation is an interesting one, confronting confrontation (tra la), and realizing it won’t kill you. I still struggle with this one. And sometimes it is exactly what you need, though it may be unpleasant, and like so many aspects of life, with practice it becomes easier.

    Lifelong learning is another one of those amazing elements of daily life for some of us, that is so enriching and so necessary, I’ll be at tiring at times. But what a gift if that is something that we have absorbed from others in life. And even more so if it is a gift that you can pass on, as I believe you are doing and have done.

    Friends. Community. Loss. There is so much of substance here that makes us think. I know that I have learned a tremendous amount from my own challenges in 2017, to a great extent, all that I simply cannot control and in recognizing that, I have to just roll with it as best I can even if that process ain’t pretty.

    I am indeed very grateful for the new voices and new spirits and blossoming friendships through the online world. That continues to be a gift and a wonderful surprise. On that note, my friend, I wish you and your family a very healthy and happy new year.

    xo

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    1. Happy New Year to you too, DA. So happy I'm part of your growing on-line community:)

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  13. Yes to learning. Yes to friendship. Yes to travels. And yes to saying no when necessary.
    Have a very happy 2018.

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  14. Thanks for being so generous in sharing yourself with us throughout the year. New posts from you are a highlight of the time I spend in cyberspace, and I find your voice much more authentic what I encounter on many monetized blogs.

    The main thing I learned in 2017 is how utterly delightful it is to be a grandmother! I have also become stronger in saying "no," especially in the context of my career, despite my people-pleasing tendencies, and have not for a moment regretted the decisions I made in this regard.

    Happy 2018!

    Denise L.

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    1. Oops ... "much more authentic THAN what I encounter..."

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    2. Thanks, Denise. Happy 2018 to you too:)

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  15. Wise words in this post and comments and much agreement about lifelong learning. Happy new year. Lovely photos and I especially like the last one. New top/ dress? You look great. Iris

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    1. Thanks, Iris. And Happy new year to you too.
      P.S. Yes that's a new top. I'm trying to participate in a trend. Ha.

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  16. Thanks for another thoughtful post. A great review to start off the new year. As a (2017) newly retired 60 year old, I am still figuring things out and enjoy learning every day. And some days are for goofing about, also a "learned behaviour ", all Okay!
    Love the line, Birth lottery, so true.
    All the best to you and hubby, Suz from Vancouver

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    1. Thanks, Suz. Happy New Year... year two in retirement?

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.