I missed a few days in my effort to be a daily blogger. Today’s blog reverbbroads prompt ventures too far into the personal for my comfort, so given that I missed a few days, I am opting instead to write from yesterday’s prompt instead. Hey, it’s my party and I’ll blog if I want to.
So, yesterday’s prompt: What skill have you learned in the past year that you are proud of?
Usually, when I think of a skill, I want to imagine something tangible — I learned to fly a plane, unclog a pipe, or rewire the electricity in my house. While I already knew how to unclog a pipe, I have not yet mastered or even attempted the other two. But the skill I’ve learned this year is, I think, far more valuable. I have learned, at least in part, to relax.
You see, one year and one month ago, I walked in the graduation ceremony for my doctorate. That was the culmination of a lifetime of education. While I had taken breaks occasionally — after my first masters and again after the second — there was always a recognition that I would return to school. Once I finished, it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure what needed to be done next. Of course, I had work; of course, I had my family. But what would be my next major “accomplishment”?
What I realized was that I didn’t need to know right away. It was okay to just let things go. It was okay to sleep late, to spend a Saturday doing nothing but watching a movie, or to NOT think about work. It was okay to read a book for fun. I’ll admit that I struggled at first. I am not naturally good at relaxing.
But what was perhaps most important was that I learned that I could relax and take a day or two off and not lose momentum. I have accomplished a lot this year — I presented my first (and soon to be second) keynote speech; I taught a class I had never taught before; I wrote my first book chapter (to be published this fall!); and I assisted my staff in rethinking our department and refocusing our work. But I also adopted a new kitten, who loves nothing more than to lay on me; I read books that had nothing to do with higher education and had meaningful enough conversations that I was able to recommend them; I went ice skating with my niece and carved out time to help her do her sparkly makeup for her talent show. A year ago, I would have had excuses for why all of this would not have fit into my schedule, not because it didn’t, but because it was too difficult to just relax.
I recognize that, like with any new skill, I am far from perfect only a year into my practice. Like the electrical rewiring or the plane flying, I cannot expect that this new personal skill would be perfect to someone who is still very much a novice. But I do recognize the value in this relaxation, and the need for me to work at becoming better and better at it. For those to whom relaxation comes naturally, this idea of working at it probably seems counterintuitive. But I would probably say the same of those who have to really work at those things that come so naturally to me.