Repeat, repeat, repeat …

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I am afraid to look back through my blog posts to find how many times I have voiced my frustration and determination to learn something new or to develop a skill that I started to learn years ago. I feel like a broken record – repeating and repeating the same angst over and over.

My husband and I talked about this again yesterday. You spend your life working in an area. You build up an expertise and feel pretty good about who you are in your work life. Things are going well and you know how to problem solve and fix things when they don’t go as planned.

Then it all comes to a halt. You retire, let your shoulders down, you relax and slowly begin to take on new work. It could be work for pay or just working towards a new or old skill – learning to write fiction, learning to draw, learning to knit or sew – whatever you decide you want to spend your time learning. (Being from a teaching/learning field I just assume we all will continue to take on new learning after we finish working at our given profession. Right?)

Here is where the wall comes in. NO, not that wall – not a wall that stops people from coming in. It is the imaginary but all to real wall that we reach when we are learning something new. When writing it is often the little editor on your shoulder. When I am working on learning to draw there is that same critic that looks at what I am doing and laughs. The voice in my head that says “you can’t do this or you really don’t understand this, you know!! You are really dumb to even try! You are too old to learn something new. Your hands don’t work right, your vision is poor” on and on this little critic goes!!!

So here I sit on a cold, snowy, winter morning in my office. My drawing is sitting untouched on my desk – the critic is yelling at me about how I was terrible in class yesterday, it is reminding me how I avoided drawing and spent time looking at plants under the microscope (in my defense the dissected flowers were amazing to look at and it was part of the assignment just not the whole assignment).

I also know I am avoiding my drawing by writing to you.  Ok critic, enough all ready!

Well, here it is – the truth of the matter is it is hard anytime but really hard as an older adult to take on a new task. The act of returning to the beginning is at once exciting and also frightening. There are the wonders of learning, knowing you are keeping your brain going and the discover of new skills, new friends who are working on similar things and new adventures while learning.

There is also the discovery that learning at an older age sometimes takes longer than you want. You also find those aging issue you were hoping to not pay attention to. My eyes are not as good as they were. I need much brighter light (it is why there is a new lamp on my desk). My fingers, indeed, have arthritis and a few don’t bend they way they should. Is that causing issues with fine, detail drawing? – maybe! I can’t sit as long as I would like while working on a task – I get stiff and sore.

Last there is the issue of learning a new task is just plain hard for anyone. It takes work, time and patience. It takes repeating and repeating until the new skill sets in and makes sense in your thinking and in your body.

Yes, I am repeating my writing because it is what I am thinking about today but I also know that to hopefully get passed or over this “wall” of new learning I will need to keep trying. I will need to repeat what I am doing many times until I can feel it in my hands and see it with my minds eye. This is true with writing, yoga, drawing, playing music – really it is true with any new task.  It takes time!

Clearly, I am still working on patience and practice – I was not good at this as a little kid, now that I think about it. I can still here my Mother telling me “you won’t be good at the piano unless you practice – often and daily! and that goes from the multiplication facts as well young lady!”  So why I thought it would be different now is beyond me!

I am off to try again – to practice, to repeat, to hold that pencil and draw those lines until they feel at home in my hands. Wish me luck!

Are you (young or old) working on learning something new this year? How is it going?

Hang in there – learning is a good thing but can be hard!

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in behavior change, Reflection and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Repeat, repeat, repeat …

  1. arjeha says:

    Why is it that we are our own worst critic? There are many times I have not attempted something of of that inner voice telling me I am too old or I can’t do it. This year with “explore” as my OLW I am not going to listen. I will try new things. If I fail, I fail, at least I will have tried.

  2. Terje says:

    Step by step, small chunks of practice time add up to more and more. Keep going, and hum a tune, so you can’t hear what the inner critic on your shoulder says. 🙂

  3. We all have those critics that keep us from pushing forward. Sounds like you know what to do to keep yours at bay.

  4. terierrol says:

    Wishing you best of luck in your new endeavors. I too think it is important to keep learning. My retirement is getting closer, and your post inspires me for what I have to look forward to. Thank you.

  5. Ramona says:

    Your plans inspire me. Right now I’m listening to lectures about Italy in preparation for my upcoming trip. Not a participatory kind of learning, but challenging just the same as I seek to understand a culture and its history.

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