10 Lessons I Didn’t Plan On Learning This Past Year

As I close the door to another year past and say goodbye all that has happened over the past 12 months, I’m struck with the realization that my life has changed in such dramatic ways.  Who knew at the start of the year, that my life would look so different come year’s end.  I surely didn’t plan to experience half of what I did and never thought I had signed up to learn some important life lessons first hand.

It seemed despite my original New Year’s resolutions and goals, life had decided that there were plenty of new lessons to to be learned.  From the highs of reaching a few of my personal goals, putting a few more notches in my professional belt, and seeing new parts of the world, to the heartbreak of losing a loved one, the stresses of family life, worries about my children, and my new role as care giver to my father-in-law who is suffering from dementia, life has been one series of wild roller coaster rides after another. 

Life has a way of reminding us of past lessons learned, or it forces us to learn a few new ones.

The one theme that remained constant throughout the year was: everything changes.  But isn’t that the way it always goes?  Without facing our greatest challenges, will we ever know what we are truly capable of?  And, seriously, does life have to teach us so many in a short period?

With each situation that had happened to me this year, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from them was to adjust and to adapt.  Adjusting and adapting, and perhaps far too many glasses of wine got me through one of the toughest years of my life – and there have been quite a few in my many decades on this earth.

Whatever life had in store for me, good or bad, there was a lesson to be learned woven into each situation I faced.  I may have passed a few of these little tests and may have failed at others, but in the end, I found myself embracing them for what I learned from them. 

Hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – if that’s true, I’ve transformed into one badass warrior queen!!!

So here are “The 10 Things I Didn’t Plan On Learning This Year”.

1.  The Lesson of Losing a Loved One:  This lesson hit hard when my mother-in-law passed away mid-year leaving me suddenly holding the family’s matriarchal torch.  Quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil of having to stay strong for my husband, learning to navigate the landmines of grief that each family member was experiencing, nor for the amount of time and work it took over the ensuing weeks to break down an entire household and get it ready for sale. 

Lesson Learned:  We will all face the prospect of losing a loved one, but life moves on, memories will become sweet, and our emotions will heal.

2. The Lesson of Estate Planning and Living Minimalistic:  Losing my mother-in-law, make me wake up to the fact that I needed to prepare my own affairs to make it easier on my children when my time on earth has ended. I realized that I don’t want them to have to worry about getting rid of lifetime supplies of batteries, playing cards, or other items we don’t need multiples of, closets full of clothes from decades ago, and going through mounds of useless and outdated financial statements or owner’s manuals of appliances that no longer exist. 

Lesson learned:  If you’re not going to use it, don’t buy it, because you certainly can’t take it with you. And for the love of God, learn to throw things out.

3.  The Lesson That Life Can Change in An Instant:  Life is constantly changing, sometimes it is change we embrace or initiate, but when change hits you like a massive tidal wave, creating havoc and chaos, you can find yourself suddenly drowning in a sea of murky water, scrambling just to get to the surface to grasp for air.       

In addition to losing an important family member, my life also took an abrupt change when my husband and I made the decision to move his elderly, father into our home.  Every aspect of our lives has since been impacted due to our new roles of caregivers.  Our schedules now revolve around his schedule and his limited abilities.  

Lesson learned: Never take anything for granted, life can change when you least expect it, forcing you to create a new normal routine.  We’ve learned there is a blessing in temporarily giving up our freedom for the limited time we have left to spend with him.

4.  The Lesson of Learning to Let Go:  Life is too darn short to hold on to things that weigh us down.  Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one or seeing friends and family members go through medical issues, or maybe it could have been issues with personal setbacks, but I’ve learned over this past year to let the little things go.

Lesson Learned: Holding on to grudges, insecurities, and fears won’t add one more second to my life or create joy that I want.  Material possessions take up too much space and most of what we own is either useless or never used.  Letting go of both emotional and physical baggage gave me time to focus on the truly important things in life.

5.  The Lesson of Being Careful About What You Wish For:  After my youngest trotted off to college, I mentioned to a friend that I need to find something new to keep myself busy.  I further uttered, as my son and I said our good byes “With you leaving, who will I now have to take care of?”  Well, the universe spoke loud and clear and now my empty nest has a new resident, my father-in-law, giving me someone to take care of. 

Lesson learned:  As much as I am happy to have the ability to care for my father-in-law, I need to be careful and a bit more specific in my requests.  Perhaps next time, my wish should be for professional success and world travel!

6.  The Lesson of Caring For A Loved One With Dementia/Alzheimer’s:  Honestly, second to dealing with the loss of a loved one, learning to care for a dementia patient has been the one lesson I really wished I didn’t have to learn last year.  Over the past few months of caring for my father-in-law, I’ve learned the scary facts about this disease and have learned that we can’t expect a dementia patient to act or think in a normal way, because their brain is not operating normally. 

Lesson learned:  Despite having dementia, my father-in-law is still my father-in-law, with a wicked sense of humor and pleasant personality.  I’ve gained more patience and have learned to appreciate the beauty and blessings of being able to provide him with a safe and happy home.

7.  The Lesson of Trusting my Gut:  This year, more than ever, I encountered several instances where I had to learn to trust my “gut” and not rely on outside influences to make certain decisions.  By honing into my inner compass and having the courage to trust it, I was given opportunity after opportunity to tackle many challenges in both my personal and professional ventures.  Had I been influenced by other people’s opinions and gave in when I knew that would have been the wrong decision, the outcomes of some very important projects may have turned out vastly different. 

Lesson learned:  Listening to the internal voice we all have and shutting out the doubters is what has helped me to focus on making better decisions and to be more confident in them.  Your gut instinct is usually right.

8.  The Lesson of Facing My Fears:  This past year brought me face-to-face with one of my greatest fears – public speaking.  Not once, but three times, I was thrown into the spotlight (or in my case the “Lion’s Den”) to deliver several critical speeches and public presentations.  As I fought the urge to run, hide and feign injury just to avoid having to speak in front of a large crowd, the stronger my confidence became and the more my words made a positive impact. 

Lesson learned: Had I chosen to give into fear, a major project I spent months working on may have failed. Facing my fears and has helped me to realize that anything is possible and that fear itself can be blown out of proportion.

9.    The Lesson That Friendships Can Be Disappointing:  I am a very loyal person and will go out of my way to support and cheer on others, sacrificing my personal desires (what I ideally would like to do) for the happiness that it will bring someone.  However, I’ve found that sometimes the same level of loyalty and support was not always returned.  The greatest disappointments came when I expected my tribe to support my dreams and goals as I do their’s, only to realize that they really don’t.  Or, facing disappointment when invitations to get together with people keep being declined or the invitation is never initiated by the other person and the excuses keep piling up.

Lesson learned:  Not everyone will be as loyal or supportive as I expect them to be and that’s OK.  Lip service is cheap, and actions do speak louder than words (no pun intended).  Experiencing this kind of disappointment has taught me to recognize who I should keep in my tribe and who not to go out of my way for.

10.  The Lesson of Blessings:  Not all the lessons that I did not plan to learn this past year were negative, many lessons I’ve learned had beautiful blessings attached to them.   By looking at the positive in each of these lessons, I was able to walk away with the ability to see a new perspective and to see that only by going through these storms, a blessing was usually waiting on the other side. 

Each time I felt despair or disappointment, a blessing from an obscure place usually landed in my lap – almost as if God or the universe was saying, “hold tight, you’re doing the right thing and here’s something to encourage you” and each time a greater opportunity or beautiful experience was revealed to me.

Lesson learned:  Always search and look at the positives in life.  Negative situations will always present themselves, but how you respond to them or what you learn from them will determine the course your life will take.  Blessings are always there, I’ve learned the greatest lesson is to open my eyes and see them.

What lessons did life teach you this year that you were not planning to learn?  I’d love to hear what they were and what the outcome was.  Leave a comment, and remember to “Like”, “Share”, “Pin”, or “Tweet” this article.

4 thoughts on “10 Lessons I Didn’t Plan On Learning This Past Year

  1. Ashley Firth says:

    Happy New Year, Badass Queen! The lessons I had learnt last year are so similar to my own, especially with regards to friendships and trusting my own instincts! My 2019 be what you want to make it 🙂

    • Paulette Klein says:

      Thanks. I think I just might need to get a shirt with “Badass Queen” on it to remind me that whatever life throws at me, I’ll survive. Here’s to trusting our guts and to finding real friendships! Happy New Year back at you.

  2. Hilda says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. It actually made me realise that I also learned some lessons last year, particularly with respect to points 9 and 10. I hope 2019 turns out to be a great year for you, and I wish you all the best with regards to your father in law. (Hilda @thisleoloves)

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