About fifteen years ago this month, I had a bit of an epiphany. I suddenly realized how little I really knew about so many things in our world. Unlike my 20-something self (when I thought I knew absolutely everything), I had started paying more attention to the people around me, recognized how interesting many of them were and committed to learn something new as often as possible.
I call this my January Commitment. During the last two months of each year, I research opportunities that will help me broaden my knowledge and view of the world. Sometimes I choose healthcare issues and other times I take traditional courses I missed out on while finishing my degree or random classes offered at city colleges, community centers or independent learning centers. Lately, I’ve been fascinated by more spiritually-focused courses including yoga and meditation.
Many of these courses are actually free but some are not. Some can be so complex and challenging that I spend the first few classes convincing myself to stay through at least one more. But even that is an exercise in personal development.
The first January, I threw myself into classes and chose pretty basic stuff. And I mean basic stuff. I wanted to learn how to successfully make a pie crust, so I signed up for up Cooking & Baking 101 at San Francisco City College. Notice I said “successfully” make a pie crust. I had produced numerous piecrusts over the years, however good ones were few and far between (although many could be used as creative doorstops). I’m not sure if this class still exists for those outside of the competitive San Francisco City College Culinary Academy program, but the description suggested I’d learn light baking skills and basic food preparation. I was thrilled. Great teacher, fun classmates and I mastered pie crusts – delicious, entirely edible piecrusts!
Based on the high of mastering one skill, I chose another: Gardening. I loved plants and the instant gratification of filling a large terra cotta pot with beautiful blooming flowers for my yard, but that was the full extent of my gardening skills. After six weeks, I actually knew how to prepare soil, exactly what kinds of plants to purchase for each season, and how to actually keep these plants alive.
By the way, don’t be put off by the six-week description. I worked full-time then (and still do today), but these courses are usually once a week on Saturdays or weekday evenings.
Other mind- and life-altering experiences include classes at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County (the practice of being quiet for at least 15 minutes per day wasn’t easy for me), and my two-day retreats with Wayne Dyer. I met so many people there who, without saying a word, taught me so much about being a better person than I was the day before.
My doula certification classes were absolutely wonderful and far more physical than I anticipated. Having 21 women in a supportive environment that allowed each one of us to succeed was an experience I will never forget.
Of course, you don’t have to learn alone. One winter, I took Bridge lessons with a group of friends. We had decided we were too young to play bridge then, but would love knowing how to play when we got older. We were wrong. We were definitely the right age to take lessons (since it’s so complicated), loved playing and continue to play every Tuesday night. Comprised of 20 women of all ages (and appropriately named the Flask Bridge Club), our group has become a tribe and we support each other through much more than just bridge games.
Needless to say, not all of my classes or groups were a roaring success. I tried a book club one January and stayed to finish the first novel, but then dropped out. I love to read and read fast (probably too fast). But the book club that invited me to join really loved pouring over each chapter, discussing the heroine’s character flaws and critiquing the author’s plotlines. Too much discussion for me. I had finished the book by the second meeting, so before I was asked to leave the group, I politely thanked them for inviting me and headed off to the bookstore.
But that first January Commitment literally changed my life. The enjoyment I gained from Gardening 101 and Cooking 101 compelled me to go to real estate school for six Saturdays – and I was hooked. Fifteen years later, I not only enjoy a career that provides great rewards, but the time and resources to start and run and organization like 360Women.
So, what will you do this month? What will your January Commitment be? In addition to the links above, you’ll find a broad selection of schools and other organizations in our Resources directory covering everything from cooking and photography to computers and psychology.
Let this be the day you decide to do something different, stir your imagination and expand that fabulous female brain of yours.
“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” – Rumi