You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (Or, At Least, I Hope You Can!)

I’m sure most of you clicked on this link, expecting me to say something about our dog.  While it is true that our now 10-month old puppy has many, many things left to learn – not the least of which is that electrical cords are not chew toys!! – the “old dog” to whom I am referring is actually me! (Note to my brother:  Don’t EVER attempt to call me an old dog!).

Towards the end of the summer, I found myself eating lunch with my son after his power skating camp.  We were sitting adjacent to the ice and noticed that a woman was taking a private figure skating lesson.  At some point during our lunch, my son asked me “why is that old woman taking skating lessons?”  Needless to say, I scolded him and corrected him for the “old woman” comment (if for no other reason than the fact that she was about my age!).  But I then went on to explain that skating lessons aren’t only for little kids.  “It’s never too late to try something new”, I said.  I tried to convey that it was pretty amazing, but I’m not sure that my son bought it!

It has been a couple of months since that lunch, but the conversation has stuck with me.  I was reminded of something that I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s (of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic fame) blog:  “if you’re not dead yet, you’re not done yet”.  She talked about the advice that her 73-year old mother had given her – that you should seize as much life and joy and adventure and learning and novelty as you possibly can, regardless of age.  Elizabeth’s mother had issued a gentle warning not to fall into the trap of letting your life get smaller as you get older.

This conversation with my son was a bit of a wake-up call.  I have to admit, I am often guilty of falling into old patterns.  There is comfort in the familiar.  I tend to do the same cardio workouts – running and spinning; as a family, we visit the same restaurants over and over; and I even take the same route most days when walking the dog.

Something I know to be true of myself, at least from a professional standpoint, is that my greatest learning and development has always come when I have stretched myself and gone outside of my comfort zone.  I have to believe that this would hold true in other areas of my life.  And yet, it feels that I have let go of many of the aspirations that I once had.  For instance, I used to think about getting my private pilot’s license, taking a photography course, running a marathon, becoming a spinning instructor, relearning French…  the list is long.  I’m not sure that all of these aspirations still hold true today, but I do know that I want to live a big and full life.  And I think it is virtually impossible to do so without plunging into the unknown and daring to take on new challenges.  So that is exactly what I am going to do.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted!


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson


4 thoughts on “You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (Or, At Least, I Hope You Can!)

  1. Hi Michelle,

    Well, your blog post today really struck home. I could have been that old lady on the rink. When I retired 15 years ago (aged 56) I took up figure skating. My very close friend, Louise – who died, sadly, in March of this year of ovarian cancer at the age of 62 – had urged me to join her in taking adult lessons that were being offered at the local arena. Despite my protests that I hadn’t had a pair of skates on since I was six or seven, I went along to the first class. And loved it. Louise, unfortunately, did not and dropped out after just a few lessons. Long story short . . . for a number of years I was taking classes three times a week, at three different arenas. As well as private coaching. My moment of glory finally came the season I took private lessons with Tomas Morbacher who was once Marie-France Dubreuil’s skating partner. I suspect, of course, he probably had the same reaction as your son – “What’s an old broad like this doing taking skating lessons?!” But I was having fun and didn’t care what anyone thought. Even when my husband came to the rink one day and remarked – rather uncharitably, I thought – “You’ve been taking lessons for 7 years and this is ALL you can do?!”

    All to say that sometimes those old dogs actually can learn new tricks. Not, perhaps – at least in the case of figure skating – very quickly, but my life in the past 15 years has been so incredibly enriched by this activity that I would certainly encourage you to get that private pilot’s license or take that photography course. Not, of course, that your life as a mother of two active young children needs much filling up, but there are some things you have to do just for you. So, go for it. Now that my golf clubs are put away, I can’t wait to get back on the ice. Safely – it can only be hoped – out of sight of any 8-year-old boys.

    Love your blog. Best to you all.
    Joy Hayes

    Liked by 1 person

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