What's the Most Important Lesson You Learned this Year?

I was reading a book by Patricia Bright this weekend and there was one thing she wrote that stayed with me - that you shouldn't mistake your life now for where you are heading. This is particularly important for those of us who are struggling to like where we are right now for whatever reason.

My reason? Being so far away from my family. Twice a year visits supplemented with zoom calls no longer feel like they are enough. And I think the setbacks we experienced this year that prevented us from travelling brought this home. A is still waiting for his residency card and classes have now just restarted, making it difficult to plan time off until December. I'm trying not to think about it but it's making me m-i-s-e-r-able.

Pink cotton candy skies at sunset over Bari, Old Town.

Last night, in an attempt to make myself feel better, I thought of all the lessons I learned this year and made a list.

1. Learning is not linear.

This year I did I lot of research into education to support my thesis on online learning and what I discovered was that, when it comes to languages, there is no real proof that we learn them in a linear way. This is one of many hypotheses and the more I learned about the many different theories of language learning, the more I began to question my assumptions about what I think happens in the classroom and my role within it. Where I once saw course books and exam results, I now see interlanguage, the zone of proximal development, input + 1, connectionism, universal grammar and the list goes on. Learning isn't linear - it is a spiral, it happens in small bites and you never know when it is going to blossom.

2. It's better to listen than give advice.

When friends confide in me and ask me for advice because they know I've been through a similar experience, I'm happy to share what I've learned. But this isn't always a good thing. I've had friends feel like they've disappointed me just because they didn't follow my advice. And that isn't the case. Just because something worked for me doesn't mean it is the answer to the problem for someone else. To avoid awkward feelings, sometimes it's just better to listen and support friends by asking open-ended questions, allowing them to come to their conclusions about what their next step should be.

3. Be mindful of the 80/20 rule.

80% of our life is the result of 20% of our actions. I learned this from Muchelle B. Just as I was reaching 'how to' fatigue - while scrolling through Skillshare, I found this short course which was very inspiring and gave me a new perspective on what it means to live an intentional life. This directly fits in with the new moon intentions for last month.

4. Live your life setting an example for others.

One of the most motivating beliefs for supporting personal change is to believe that what we do to improve our lives can inspire others to do the same but in their own way. Sometimes we need a reason to push ourselves in the right direction and setting an example by living our best life is a catch-all reason to do the next right thing.

5. Happiness is not other people.

I keep finding this lesson sneaking back into my life. I think that is natural to care for others and to want to make them happy and to believe that if we have done something wrong, that once we apologise it will make things better. But this is not always the case. And no, no matter how hurtful it may feel, they don't owe you an apology. The best thing to do is to respect their decision, and quickly move on to the things that DO bring us happiness.

Let me know what lessons you've learned or what you may be struggling with at the moment - so matter how big or small. Please share in the comments below.

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  • Manja Maksimovic says:

    Yeah! I can finally comment under your posts. 🙂 Not that I have any big lesson to report but I find yours quite inspiring. Plus I wish to share your feeling of being separated from my family. We only see each other twice a year too. Last year it was just once (for a month and a half). Also, I've been fasting for 24 hours on every full and new moon for over a year now (after doing it regularly in my 30's), and I feel it's the way to be. Much love to you with good wishes.

    • Martina Azkoul says:

      Hey Manja! Thanks so much for chiming in - it is so nice to 'hear' a friendly voice. I'm glad that you don't have any big lessons to report and I hope that you are thriving in your part of the woods 🙂 The love is much appreciated. x M

  • Randall says:

    Living overseas has always been a double-edged sword. Loving life, but also missing the opportunities to be with family back in the States. With my parents getting older, the desire to spend more time in the States is strong ~ and while I still visit only a couple times a year, I am able to stay for 2-3 months if necessary and this has brought balance. I understand this pull well. Wishing you well, Martina.

    • Martina Azkoul says:

      Thanks so much Randall! It's gotten to the point where I don't think missing the opportunities is worth it. We've booked our flights back for Christmas so I'm really looking forward to that. Where is home for you?