The year 2020 has been a crap show in many ways, but being the Pollyanna type that I am, I have a deep need to find the good. Here are the things that I came up with in my quiet time this morning. (My kids are in Jr. High, so I can do this!) Below are some life lessons that God is teaching me through this crummy year.
Life lesson 1: I can do hard things
As a teacher, I was always telling my students to have a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset. Learning new things is something we are all capable of. Failure is not bad; it’s just part of the learning process. A fixed mindset says I’m just not good at that, so I don’t try. My human nature wants to do anything it can to avoid pain and difficulty. So the positive side of being forced into digital teaching in March is that I realized I could do a ton of things that I previously assumed I could not.
When we went into quarantine, like many others, my job description changed. I had to adjust everything about the way I taught. Graphic organizers were converted into PDFs that students could type in using text boxes. You guys, I created these. I made screencasts that would instruct my students on how to complete assignments in programs that I learned an hour before. Tech support for 15 families was yours truly, and I was able to solve most of the problems.
Before March of 2020, I would have told you that I am not techy. I would have pleaded that I don’t want to be on camera. I would have insisted that I suck at all of it. The truth is, I don’t suck at it! I converted my entire 3rd-grade curriculum into an online format. In actuality, I was kind of good at it. I would never have known, had I not been forced into it.
2020 has shifted my mindset. My willingness to try new things has increased because I have seen first hand that I can do hard things. No longer am I paralyzed by the fear of failure or making a fool of myself. I learned an important life lesson, and I think I am better for it.
Life lesson 2: My career doesn’t define me
I think part of the reason it was so difficult for me to quit my job as a teacher is because I came to identify with the title. If I’m not a teacher, then who am I? I spent so much time growing my teaching skills in the last four years that I didn’t even know who Carrie was without that.
Well, guess what? I’m a wife, mom, and an imperfect individual who simply wants to bring value to those around me by being the person that God created me to be. I am still a teacher at heart, even if I’m not in a classroom, but I can bring value to others in any career. Strangely, working part-time in the office of a school has left me more fulfilled at the end of every day than teaching did.
Life lesson 3: Relationships matter more to me than my career
I am an extremely relational person. For the past three years, I have been miserable because I was neglecting my most important relationships. At the expense of my family and friends, I spent every moment trying to become the very best educator that I could be. A noble goal to pursue, for sure, but it felt impossible for me to balance school and other relationships. School always won. I’m in awe of how some educators can set boundaries and still be exceptional teachers. I haven’t figured that out yet, and I’m not willing to give up more time away from my kids at this stage.
Now that I have taken a step back from it all, I can breathe. And I’m enjoying time to be silly with my kids and my husband. I finally feel like me again.
Life lesson 4: It’s imperative that I get to know people who think differently than me
With everything going on in the world, it is a blessing to have people I love and respect on both sides of the political spectrum. Today, it seems, most people are quick to judge and assume they know what a person thinks about a topic based on their religion, color, socioeconomic circumstances, etc. I can tell you that being Christian does not always equal conservative republican. There are people in both parties who love Jesus, and many Christians feel like they don’t fit into either group. It’s vital to remember that being on the other side of an issue does not make a person evil!
There is so much name-calling and unkindness going on these days; it breaks my heart. I’m convinced that if more people sit down and have conversations with those who differ from them, this world will be a much more understanding place. Get to know people as people, people with hopes, dreams, and fears. You might find that you actually want the same things; you just have different ideas about the best solution. You might even be able to see their perspective, and even if you disagree, you can respect them and allow room for their opinion. Consequently, if you are lucky, you may learn something new and have your perspective changed.
For instance, I used to think kombucha was disgusting, and only tree huggers drank it. Then one of my friends who is passionate about health told me about the health benefits of kombucha tea and let me try one made with orange and apple… And it tasted good! You guys… if I was wrong about kombucha, I might be wrong about other things too! She convinced me merely by being my friend and sharing her passion. I guarantee that if she called me a hater and an unhealthy sloth because I don’t like kombucha, without getting to know me, I never in a million years would have been willing to try it. Just saying…
Life lesson 5: Laughter and play are essential
As we become adults, I think we forget how to play. Luckily I am married to an exceptional man who makes play a priority in both his home and work life. His example helps keep me young. Even when we were first married, we put on a sock puppet show for a seminary professor at Princeton, played pranks on our friends, and always made a point of laughing at life together. It’s one of the ways we keep our marriage healthy.
I find that laughter is even more essential in difficult times. Laughter is a coping mechanism for me. So much so that a nurse asked me to leave an ICU waiting room because my brother and I couldn’t stop cracking up. I tend to laugh at inappropriate times. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can relieve stress and may have some long term health benefits, including a strengthened immune system. That is why I think this is essential during these uncertain and unprecedented times. (I will be honest, though… I’m ready for some precedented times right about now!)
We have been finding so many things to laugh at during quarantine. Even junk mail is funny to us right now. We made this video when our car dealership offered us $0 for our minivan. We put string all over our basement and challenged our kids to a race. We felt like it was a heist, and we were trying to get through lasers. Luckily, instead of getting our limbs sliced off, we got water in the face when we touched one. My stomach hurt from all of the laughter. Having fun together bonds us as a family, and I am grateful that they put up with my shenanigans… even though my kids call me cringy.
These are only 5 of the things that I am learning, but there are many more. I am growing as a person, rearranging my priorities, forming new friendships, and making sure to have fun in the process. I’m grateful to be pushed outside of my comfort zone to hopefully come out of 2020 as a more confident, kind, compassionate, and light-hearted person who is making a difference in the world.
Here is another post where I share more of the valuable life lessons I learned from this hard year to continue reading.
What are you learning in 2020? Leave a comment so that we can all see the good that is coming out of this terrible year!