MidLife

You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New

Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). I have since decided to turn the subject into a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed. 

In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.

But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.

This week’s lie: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

When I headed off to Gettysburg College in 1978, I had great dreams for my future. I planned to double major in French and Spanish so I could travel the world as an international flight attendant.

Four years later, I graduated with a French and Political Science degree. I soon traded my travel dreams for mommy desires. And I never looked back.

In 2001, however, family finances dictated I return to the workforce. I interviewed as a part-time church receptionist and got the job. I was more than willing to work a few hours outside the home in exchange for a little extra money. I was NOT looking for a career.

Two weeks later the principal of the private school that met in that church asked if I would teach the 6th-grade class. I tried to explain I had no credentials. I confessed my lack of patience was a severe deficit. I was over forty — too old to embark on a new vocation.

In the end, God won.

And that one act of simple obedience led to a fulfilling career that spanned nearly eighteen years. I had a lot to learn, but I also had a lot to give. And I discovered teaching is the perfect calling for a life-long learner like me.

In 2009 I took my first post-graduate writing course. The program was designed to help English teachers improve instruction in their classrooms. I took the class because I wanted to inspire my reluctant students. I never expected to discover a latent desire to write.

It took me another seven years to find my voice and subject matter.  But just like teaching, writing is the perfect vocation for life-long learners. There is always room for improvement and new topics to explore.  I’m thrilled to find a calling that will take me well into my retirement years.

Recently I’ve decided to tackle my life-long struggle with exercise. Forty years of misunderstanding is not resolved overnight. But with realistic expectations and a willingness to transform my thinking, I am making headway. I no longer think of exercise as punishment. Rather, I am grateful to be healthy enough to move every day. And dusting off the Wii console helps too.

We are planning a family trip to Italy in 2021. We want to visit the towns of my husband’s ancestors. We want to experience the Italian lifestyle. And I want to converse with them in their native language. With online resources such as Rosetta Stone or DuoLingo, I will achieve this goal.

Within the next two years, I also plan to learn PhotoShop, quilt placemats, and make homemade bread. And I don’t plan to stop there.

The truth: It is never too late to begin again.

29 Comments

  • Christine

    There is always so much to learn and so many new things to discover! All the best with your new relationship with exercise – look for things that you enjoy doing so it’s fun and not a drag.

  • Debbie

    You’ve got some great goals there Molly and I wish you well. Getting on top of exercising is a big step and well worth the effort. I find I enjoy my daily walks and try running during them sometimes just to lift the level a bit. #mlstl

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    Molly you are certainly thriving – and I think if we aim to never stop learning then we will all be rocking our old age! Tackling a new language will be hard, but I have a feeling that languages might be your “thing” and you’ll be fluent in Italian before you get to 2021 🙂 I’m trying to keep learning too – I like what you said about exercise and it’s something I’m working on too.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM 🙂

    • Molly Totoro

      While I would love to be fluent in Italian, Leanne. However, I’ve set my expectations slightly lower to avoid disappointment 🙂 I would like to take part in casual conversation with the merchants. I think 2.5 years is plenty of time to accomplish that goal (I think…)

  • Kim Duncan

    I LOVE this! I’ve recently been clued into the “It’s never too late” philosophy and it’s true. I’ve only started blogging this year and the things I’ve learned…Thanks, Molly. I look forward to seeing future installments of this series. #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Blogging is another great activity for the life-long learner. Just when I think I’ve learned the basics, they initiate “improvements” 🙂

  • Sally French Wessely

    Molly, I loved this post. I could relate to you on so many levels. I just was writing in my journal about the changes I have been making in the past few months and how that meant stepping out my comfort zone, and if you will, it also meant that I had to stop believing the lies we so easily believe about where we are in life. I love the idea behind your new series also. I look forward to reading more!

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Sally!
      I am a journaler at heart and often have no idea what I think until I write it down 🙂

  • Leah

    I just write about the Three Gs of Happiness and one of them is Growing…We need to keep learning and growing if we want to be happy. You post illustrates this idea up very well. And it’s never to late to learn something new. In fact, it’s what helps keeps us young at heart and can even slow the aging of our brains!

    • Molly Totoro

      I love the idea of Growing … Blooming … Thriving. I am most content when I am researching something new – or reading a book to develop my knowledge on a particular topic. And then just as much as I like to learn, I like to share that knowledge with others. I suppose that is one reason why I enjoy blogging 🙂 I look forward to reading about the other two Gs of Happiness!

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – never too late! I totally agree but I’m personally not eager to formally learn too much at this point. I’m studying the craft of writing and rekindling my Chinese. I’m open to new experiences but don’t care to take classes. Sometimes I think – piano – and then think, nah…

    • Molly Totoro

      I hear ya, Janet! I love the classroom, but I’m not fond of formal assessments. Fortunately, online webinars and teaching platforms allow me to learn without the stress 🙂

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    What an inspiring post Molly and thank you for sharing with us at #MLSTL. I know you will achieve your goal of communicating with your husband’s family. My husband left Italy when he was 4 and never returned until he was in his 50s. It was daunting trying to understand his cousins when I first visited but they were very understanding. I’ve missed your posts while I’ve been away so it is lovely to reconnect again with you. Have a great week! xx

    • Molly Totoro

      I’m so glad you had a great trip, Sue – but I missed your posts!
      I’m not sure we will make connections with family members (although I would LOVE that opportunity). I’m guessing my conversations will be limited to merchants who are fairly fluent in English. I’m hoping to use a bit of broken Italian to “feel” like a native 🙂

  • Molly Stevens

    I share your love of life long learning, Molly. And writing is a perfect way to enact one’s desire to fulfill this mission. It does involve a lot of sitting so I, too, need to make intentional effort to move more. I’m about to retire in a little over a week! The week after my last day of work, I’m going to a toastmaster’s meeting to work on speaking skills. I just hired a writing coach and am working with her twice a month to improve my writing. I’m looking forward to branching out into so many areas of new learning in my retirement! I have a harsh inner critic, too, and I’m keeping her quiet by taking actions that show her she is wrong. I can learn and grow in spite of her, silencing her voice. I don’t think I’m ready to learn a new language, but I applaud you in your efforts. How exciting to be planning a trip to Italy!

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Molly … CONGRATULATIONS! I have reached the point where I am finally ready to retire and not look back 🙂
      I admire your courage to attend a Toastmaster’s meeting. While teaching helped me to overcome my fear of standing in front of a group, impromptu speeches still give me the willies 🙂
      We obviously have FAR more in common than just our name. I look forward to hearing all about your retirement adventures.

  • Kay

    Molly, your posts are quite inspiring and I certainly agree that we can always learn. Sometimes the learning comes with finding out you don’t have enough patience for things (when I tried to learn how to knit) and sometimes you find it’s a perfect fit (when I went to work for the library and was asked to run two book groups – scared me to death – love it now). As to exercise, I’m so fond of my walking regimen now that I find it hard to skip a day. A rest day is not a bad thing at all, but I love the good feelings I get from my walks. Who knew that this lifelong non-movement person would hit a point where a day is rarely complete unless I walk at least 3 or 4 miles. Good luck with your plans and your dreams. It’s good for our minds to learn new things and use new pathways.

    • Molly Totoro

      I love what you have to say here, Kay: “sometimes learning comes with finding out you don’t have enough patience” That is SO true!! And I also agree that sometimes we have to be willing to step outside our comfort zone in order to discover a true calling (I imagine your book groups are delightful and I wish I lived closer so I could attend!!)

      Your walking routine inspires me. I would love to reach the point where I miss a 3-mile walk. I do believe, with baby steps, I will get there.

  • Leslie Clingan

    Rah rah sis boom bah! Go Molly!!! So proud of you. We are never too old to learn something new. I should join you on mastering Photoshop. Have the bread baking down. But taking a refresher piano class next weekend so I can dust off my keyboard and attempt to make music!

    • Molly Totoro

      Your cheerleading made me smile – thank you for that, Leslie!
      I’d love to hear any bread baking tips you have to share. I understand it has a lot to touch with touch, which is hard to discern when watching a YouTube video 🙂 Oh well… I will enjoy eating the experiments.

  • Christie Hawkes

    You have some worthy goals, Molly. Based on your past record, I’m betting you reach them. Good luck with the current exercise goal. For the most part I enjoy the physical activities I’ve chosen, but like you, on those days when I catch myself grumbling about the “need” to workout, I remind myself how lucky I am to have a strong healthy body. Your upcoming trip to Italy sounds lovely!

    • Molly Totoro

      As I read through these comments, Christie, I realize how much I complain about my lack of exercise. I think it is time to stop complaining and, as you say, begin to show gratitude for my health. I am fortunate to be able to work out at my age. It is time to focus on the positive and eliminate the grumblings.

  • Trisha Faye

    Excellent!! I’ve learned this lesson from my dad who is 84 and still learning new things. I love seeing how you’re using this to keep young and vibrant. Good luck with the Italian lessons!
    Sharing on SM and my Embracing Life FB page for MLSTL

  • Mary Lou

    This reminds me of that saying ‘Life happens while we’re making other plans.’ Your journey has taken you off on many different paths. That’s what I love about writing as it makes this so clear when we write about our lives. It’s been in the past ten years that I’m learning and discovering so many amazing connections in my life. Thanks for the nudge about exercise! I’ve learned how important this is to my well being. I’ll be sharing this for #MLSTL on FB and Twitter.
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/2018/10/26/me-in-the-middle-of-being-a-single-mom-2/

    • Molly Totoro

      Writing has indeed taken me on many journeys, Mary Lou! While I wish I started journaling at a much younger age, I am thrilled to discover its benefits in these midlife years.

  • Claire Saul

    My son, aged 22, told me just this morning that we are all continually learning new things and it is so true. Since being medically retired and chronically ill, I have had to learn so many new things about myself and the world. One real positive has been to see how complete strangers are willing and happy to help me since I have had to use a wheelchair – and youngsters will go out of their way to help! Two young lads carried me and my chair down the pub steps only the other day! I have learnt to make the best and therefore the most of my new situation and this is better for me. Thank you for sharing such a great post on #MLSTL – I have shared this on my regular feature Monday magic – Inspiring Blogs for You over on PainPalsBlog, claire x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: