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.
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.
|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 for a restaurant in Arequipa, Peru. Note the fifth item from the bottom.|
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.
|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.
|The view from the bridge over the Little Bonnechere River|
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.
|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.
|Sometimes you just need a little positive reinforcement from your friends.|
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.
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.
|That day back in 1989 when Hubby became Hubby, so to speak.|
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.
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.
|Almost sixty-two, and learning to stand up for myself.|
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