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Redefining yourself is not an easy task. Perhaps some of us – some who are very lucky – can just carry on as they leave their careers behind, but I’m guessing that’s true for very few of us. I recently came upon this metaphor for growth in another blog that I was reading, and I’d like to share with you. It was referenced to a law lecturer who is not named. “Learning“, he said, “comes in stages. At first you learn the basics, you rise up into the foothills and reach a peak of ‘glib understanding.’ You’ve mastered the basics. Everything is clear and easy and straight forward. You can apply these tools to solve a variety of problems (sadly this seems to be the level of competence in economic thinking that qualifies one to be on TV, but that’s an entirely different topic). You understand. As you continue to learn, however, a terrible thing happens. What you knew, or thought you knew starts to break down, because everything doesn’t fit as easily as you would like … things don’t line up with each other. All the knowledge you previously gained seems to be melting into a stew of contradiction. This“, as he called it, “is the Valley of Confusion.” Feels like for much of the past few years – since I retired – I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the Valley of Confusion. Today, for the first time, I’m seeing that as more a place that I’ve visited than a place that I live. The metaphor continues: “If you persevere through the valley, if you keep fighting your way through the thickets, you will start to rise up the slope on the other side, and eventually you will achieve ‘deep understanding.’ But only by struggling with the brambles of confusion will you get there.

I talk to the plants in my garden; I let them know how beautiful they are, how happy I am to see them, and wish them courage in their growth. To all of you who are travelling this road of redefinition, to all of you who have the courage to leave an “old life” behind and move on to a new one, I wish you the same: the knowledge of how beautiful you are, the awareness of happiness in each day, and the courage that we all need for the rest of the journey.

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