For a long time I thought personal growth was something that just happened, along with all the other life events. Every experience shapes us in different ways and we grow (or not) as a result. It wasn’t something I considered that one might actively *work* at it, focus on it, have a goal or outcome to achieve.
Eventually I got older and wiser and realised that if effective personal growth was to happen, it did have to happen conciously, rather than subconciously. Several factors influenced this realisation and a key one was being sent on a 3 day Dale Carnegie business course. It wasn’t a do or die career moment but there was certainly an expectation that improvements could be made and in all honesty, it was a bit of a wakeup call.
At the same time came the awareness that my current career choice had a limited lifespan due to radical changes in technology, so I put some thought into it, did research, discussed with experienced people and chose to go back to school again in my early 40s. Have since been studying project management part time for the last 3 years. This was a significant investment of time and money and a real risk. What if I failed? What if I couldn’t manage the workload? What if I hated it and it was a bad decision?
Being an adult student has been an interesting experience, especially when you are in a diverse group of students, ranging from 18 year olds all the way through to me, some with work experience, many international students from all round the world. I had to invest time and energy to attend class, do assignments, study for exams, all while holding down a demanding full time job, and also take time out for having a live too. Mostly one that involved housework and gardening and very occasional trips to the movies.
Of course I have still maintained my photographic
addiction hobby during this time, but due to time constraints and simple lack of creative energy, it has been less about going out with my camera and more about continuing the education theme. Given my focus has been on learning, I chose to expand that umbrella and include photography as well. After all, I was soaking so much information into my brain, no reason why some more FUN information couldn’t make its way in there 🙂
Truth be told, it has been a tough 3 years. The sheer time studying takes is significant, not unmanageable but it has meant I was late to a birthday dinner and left very early because I had a major assignment and had struggled with a problem I couldn’t solve all day. Ironically I figured it out when I got home and fixed it in a couple of hours!
My friends are amazing and supportive and now and then drag me out of the house to remind me there is a world out there. For my birthday a couple of years ago they threw me a surprise picnic on my lawn cos they appreciated how busy I was but are AWESOME because they wanted to celebrate the day with me. I feel guilty that I spend so little time with them currently, but I know they understand and I always make time for important stuff (like their birthdays!)
So if you had told me 3 years ago that I would be here today, I would have laughed and called you insane. What do I mean by here?
Right now I have completed my 5 papers (and got two A+ !!) and am doing the research methodology course in preparation for doing essentially my thesis. AND I am also studying not one but TWO Photoshop courses online (with another two courses I have started and need get stuck into) and I am LOVING IT!
I took a major risk with the first Photoshop course at Xmas time, it was on special and quite affordable but I had no idea what lay ahead. Within 6 months I had completed half that course and JUMPED at the opportunity to sign up for the advanced Awake course and I am 1/4 the way through a year long course and its FANTASTIC.
The Awake course was financially a real risk, with the exchange rate in bad shape it cost me $600+ but having seen work from the original students in the course magazine, it was a risk I was prepared to take and haven’t regretted a single cent. One of the best decisions I could have made, even if the timing has been a little challenging.
But I have learned so much, not just in knowledge, but about myself. I found out that if I am passionate about a subject I can read loads of textbooks about it. Even branch out in new interesting directions, simply to explore and learn interesting new things. Turns out I have truckloads of discipline, that I can and will study well in advance of deadlines and exams, I can put the work in and manage my time effectively as well. Oh and manage to lose 14KG at the same time! Coleslaw and exercise!
Yes its hard to have to make hard decisions and compromises – do I stay home and finish my assignment or do I go to the movies? It’s also hard to put your hand up and say “I don’t understand this” or “I need help” but I also knew that if there was a real problem then asking for help was the only way past it.
In April I took another kind of risk, where I went on a solo roadtrip around Tasmania, covering 2000 km driving in 12 days. Saw a great and largely unvisited piece of the world, didn’t get bitten by anything nasty, ate amazing chocolate and took loads of photos. Had a wonderful memorable experience and would happily do it again. Was I nervous of travelling alone? Hell yes! Was I going let it stop me? Hell No!
My next risk opportunity is to gamble on my ability as an artist and photographer. I have a spot in a community art gallery in March next year to hang some images for a month. Right now I am working on finding out about costs for printing and framing canvases and other options and then I am going to commit financially and print out 3 images and put price tags on them and see what happens.
When I have a good enough portfolio I am going to approach local galleries and design stores and see if they will feature my work. I am going to put myself and my work out there and take a chance on people liking my work enough to buy it. There may be a website gallery where online prints can be bought, cards, cushion covers, calendars!
Some things in life happen by accident or serendipity, unplanned and unavoidable. It took me a long time to realise that if I wanted to have a life that was *my* life, that to take active steps towards creating that life meant I had to actually DO IT. To commit and take some risks – making scary hard choices and following through. So far I have been lucky (plus a fair amount of hard work was involved) and they have been good choices.
I am not the same person I was 3 years ago, and I hope that in another 3 years I am different again. Words I never thought anyone would hear me say!
Have you had a similar journey? Is there a moment that changed your life in some way?