Where do I start to describe what has changed over my lifetime? The obvious would be to segment my life into two categories: childhood and adulthood. But is that too simplistic?
The changes that have mattered most, happened on the brink of, and well into adulthood.
But there is one consistant theme that has run through all the changes that my life has been witness to – and that is: learning.
Can I separate change from learning?
Change and learning have been lifelong partners. Each change was the vehicle for valuable lessons. Things I wanted to learn – and those I needed to learn – albeit reluctantly.
My learning distance isn’t measured in time, but in experience.Maureen Durney
Every move I made, whether it was across town or to the other side of the world, taught me something new. At eighteen I moved Interstate; leaving home to become an adult with responsibilities. I learned independence and dependence, both at the same time. Independence: when I had to mend a fuse in the middle of the night because the man of the house was away; dependence: when I relied on him to do it, because it was his job as the man of the house. That’s how it was back then.
Map of Life
Most people have their lives mapped out in the usual order: study; career; marriage; children; return to career. I was never good at fitting in with what everyone else was doing. College was put on hold until my children were both at school.
I finished College and worked in a temporary, but full-time position while waiting for my appointment to a school. The offer came at the same time as the opportunity to move to Malaysia. Malaysia won. Teaching was put on hold.
Leaving the shores of Australia, I called Malaysia home, for two years. I learned resilience. New cultures, routines and a lot of diversity. I was an outsider in my new country – but I fitted in.
The return to Australia – and the beginning of my career
On returning to Australia I reclaimed my career, and teaching began in earnest. I learned confidence. My goal had been to work in Special Education, but I started out in mainstream, as every teacher should. I served what I felt was sufficient time – then moved into Special Ed.
Circumstances changed; I packed up my career and belongings, and moved Interstate. I learned aloneness. Aloneness goes beyond independence. Aloneness was when I realised that I wanted to go home at night, close the door, and shut the world out – if only for the next twelve hours.
Post-Graduate courses filled the night-times, and every other waking hour outside of the school day. Two nights a week I sat in classes, having driven almost an hour to get there. I learned persistence. Days and nights rolled into each other; always filled with journal articles; always filled with note-taking. I graduated three times in three years.
The confidence, persistence, resilience and independence that I’d learned along the way, led to advancements in my career. I progressed from the classroom to an administrative role, but still with a teaching component. Instead of having one classroom, I had many. My role was to support students with disability, their parents and their teachers. I learned advocacy. It wasn’t easy explaining to a teacher that Ben could listen better if he didn’t have to look at her. And it wasn’t easy mopping up the tears of a mum who felt she had let her child down by not being an expert in disability. Nobody is an expert in disability; but every mum knows her child best. Babies aren’t born with an instruction book attached; we simply do our best. And that is all that matters.
The New Phase
Thousands of students later, career gave way to retirement. Time to put my feet up; sleep in; take life a little easier. Time to travel. I learned spontaneity. When an opportunity to pack my bags arose – I packed – sometimes with only a week between trips. Thousands of photos and a lifetime of memories that will now spill out onto the pages of my blogs.
The changes and learning in my life have led me home. Moving Interstate at eighteen; across the world at other times; and back to my home-state for retirement.
The changes may be less significant in this phase – but they are still happening. And each one comes with new learnings.