We have gone through what has been an exceedingly challenging year and survived. There are scars, and there are lessons. The scars are a tribute to our resilience and will always be with us. The lessons need to be as well. What life lessons helped sustain you and others in the last year and a half?

One of my big lessons was the need for scheduled connections. In my pre-pandemic hectic life, I reached out to family and friends as the mood struck and time was available. Now these important people are on a schedule and/or on my to-do list. I don’t see them as work, of course, but I don’t trust myself to be consistent without reminders. I am too likely to get caught up in the returned busy-ness and forget. I don’t want to lose the connections that were deepened.

As we relax over the summer and make plans for the year ahead, this is a good time to take stock of what we learned or what we’d like to make sure to keep in the future. I found LaRay Quy’s article The Best Advice People Can Give Their Younger Selves touches on seven recommendations to help us:

  1. Make plans but write them in pencil – You need a direction, but you also must be prepared to change it as the situation demands. Being flexible was key in the last fifteen months and that will not change. If you are traveling on a highway, accidents and construction can force you to detour. Life’s journey is no different. Sometimes the detour allows you to see and experience what you might have overlooked. Sometimes it slows you up, but you still saw something new. That’s life. Or as Ursula LeGuin said in Left Hand of Darkness, “It’s always good to have an end to journey toward, but it’s the journey that matters in the end.”
  2. Read better books – We read –we are librarians. Have you been denying yourselves the pleasure because of too much work?  We need our reading to help us grow. It’s not necessarily significant texts. It’s new authors who present a different perspective.  I have found important insights in romantic fiction. The genre is not what’s important. The author and their message is.
  3. Invest in friendships – As my opening example shows, we need friendships and connection in our lives. We need our old friends and need to make new ones. Quy notes we attract people like us. Focus on your positives and your friendship circle will be enlarged by equally positive people. Find people who want to grow and learn as you do.
  4. Know when to leave – This is true in relationships and in work. Reflect on the relationships in your life. Are there some that are draining? You don’t need people who only take. Some jobs are toxic as well. I left one, and it changed my life for the better. Don’t stay in bad situations because you fear losing tenure. If you are good, you will get tenure in the next position – and you’ll have a situation where you can thrive.
  5. Forget about following your passion – Here is where I disagree with Quy, but it’s mainly a question of definitions. She says passion is fleeting and self-serving, and it’s better to follow your purpose. I emphatically support following your purpose. But my purpose has become my passion, and it has been my passion for many years. Take time to look at what you’re passionate about and see how that weaves into your purpose – the connections you find will surprise you.
  6. Solve harder problems – It’s easy to continue doing what we have always been doing, but growth comes from leaving your comfort zone. This is where you truly live your purpose. Take it onto a larger stage. Volunteer for a committee with your state school library association. If you already do that, move to the national level. Scary?  Yes, but as you grow, you become better at your job. Your new knowledge will affect how you present yourself and boost your confidence. The result – your colleagues and administrators will recognize you as a leader.
  7.  Forgive first – This may seem like an odd piece of advice for this list, but anger and resentments weigh you down. It gives the other party power over you. You don’t have to forget, but recognize the issue is in the past. You don’t want it in your future. And don’t forget to forgive yourself.

I would add two more to Quy’s lists; Being Aware of Others, and Gratitude. I am far more conscious of the many people on the fringes of my life whose work makes my life possible. Delivery drivers, sanitation workers, the employees of my local supermarkets, and health care providers are among the many people who make my days easier. I am more aware then ever of the work they do and I am very grateful.

It’s time to reflect and plan. As expected, our post-pandemic world is a changed place. We need to envision how we will be in our new normal, and that means integrating the lessons we learned. What would you put on your list to help you move forward?

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