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Getting Older

This week, I’m not going to write about education and the pandemic. I know It’s the topic of the day. In much of my world, it is all anyone talks about, but it is not the only thing in life.

There need to be times that we take a break from talking, thinking and worrying about this Coronavirus. We’re being fed a steady diet of fear and it is giving everyone mental indigestion.

I have no doubt that I will be sucked back into the Covid spiral in the next few weeks as we start back-to-schooling. I’m sure that most of my posts over the next month will be a retelling of my own survival guide for teaching in pandemic times.

But, not this week.

This week, I am getting older and this has reminded me to pause and be retrospective about all the lessons I’ve learned in life so far. My logical brain likes to tell me that I am only ever going to be one day older than I was the day before, but still, there is somehow a bit of a dramatic feel to birthdays. This one I guess is the gateway to my mid-forties.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry to be getting older. It isn’t just that the alternative to getting older is death, it’s also that I definitely know and like myself better the older I get. I used to have a strong idea of the person I hoped to become, but slowly I’m learning to be happier and more accepting of the person that I am.

Growing up, my mom told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I took that as meaning that I could become a socially outgoing, nomadic, daredevil who wrote best selling books while living in a shack at the top of a mountain overlooking the ocean.

I took that goal and in my late teen years started to try to make it a formula for my life. I spent 2 years traveling around Canada pretty randomly. I worked when I ran out of money and roamed around trying to understand the country I called home. At 22 I went and traveled alone in Ghana for 2 and a half months (caught malaria and nearly died). I also lived in a tiny trailer on my friend’s acreage at the bottom of one mountain and then later in a more remote cabin at the bottom of a different mountain (but I never managed to live at the top).

This is what I thought I wanted.

I thought I loved to travel. I really wanted to be someone who loved to travel, but I’m not sure that I ever did.

The first time I think I took an honest look at who I was rather than who I thought I wanted to be was when I had to decide on my post-secondary education path.

I started at Ryerson, in journalism, then I ventured into anthropology and women studies. In theory I would have loved to have travelled around the world writing the news, or working in cultural anthropology doing research and developing a thesis about the connection between the development of grammar, lexicology and culture.

Except that what I really wanted, what I craved more than anything else was stability.

Stability to me was about the wussiest, most boring thing to want. It meant not being self-sufficient, it meant tying myself down to one place and one job.

It also meant not having to wrestle with the level of suffocating anxiety that had plagued me through all of my attempts at being a carefree nomad.

Stability eventually won over my internal shame and I set out to the University of Winnipeg to get my joint B.ED/B.A. I still had no plans to become something as boring as a teacher though. I wanted to use this degree as a step to become a speech pathologist.

My dreams of not being a teacher came crashing down the very first day of my first practicum. Even though I had mostly hated my own years in elementary school, I was shocked by how much I loved to teach. I had had a lot of jobs by this point, but none that I found as thrilling or fulfilling as teaching.

It was still a long trek between admitting that I loved teaching and knowing that I liked living in one place, working at a school and having a consistent community of family and friends to know and love.

I had to travel half-way around the world and back to learn those other lessons.

I’m not sorry that I went to work in China for 2 years or that I traveled across Mongolia and Russia on a train. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I also wouldn’t want to take back any of the moments of my life that have led me to where I am now. Not because I always made such fantastic choices, but because this path that I’ve followed is what has brought me here, now.

I’ve developed more appreciation for kindness and less for intelligence, more appreciation for openness and less for seclusion, more appreciation for birds and less for squirrels.

Even after 4 years of severe insomnia, a year of financial hardship and the trickiness of the pandemic from all its various angles (as teacher, parent and human). I am truly grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

My daily blessings might not be the adventures that I once tried so hard to love. They’re rarely dangerous and don’t necessarily make great stories, but they’re special to me.

Picking fruits and veggies from my yard, watching a hummingbird drink from our flowers, reading stories to my children, eating dinner on the porch with my wife… These are all the moments that show me that life really is a gift. It’s not always shiny, glittering or packaged with a bow, but it is worth taking the time to find the moments and are both savoury and sweet.

There is more to life than Covid. Give yourself a chance to take a minute to enjoy life, breathe it in and remember why it is so precious.

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