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Life lessons learned this summer

Life lessons learned this summer

This summer I’ve been learning several important life lessons. 


First of all, I’ve been reminded that mornings are sacred. In college I was a North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholar at N.C. State University. This program was a godsend for future teachers. It provided a full academic scholarship to any of 17 higher institutions in North Carolina. To “pay it back,” students were required to work in a public school setting for at least four years. They unforutaitnly ended the full program in 2011 citing lack of funding as the reason and then brought it back it in 2017 on a smaller scale with only five universities.

Part of the Teaching Fellows program included summer enrichment activities with your cohort. One summer, my group went on a multi-day camping/hiking excursion in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. It was the first time I’d experienced this type of backpacking adventure. Growing up, my family wasn’t the outdoorsy type. Our vacation time was often spent at Ocean Lakes Campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, or on trips to exciting places such as New York and Hawaii. I loved that my family traveled far and wide, so at the time I didn’t really think much about camping. 

Fast forward to the college camping trip. I’ll never forget the way I felt that first morning, waking up in a tent before dawn, stepping outside and witnessing the entire world coming alive before my eyes. The sights, sounds and momentum of Mother Earth rising impacted me on a deep level and I still remember it to this day. 

What that backpacking trip taught me and what I’ve realized at various times during adulthood and especially this summer is that the morning is sacred. I go through lengthy periods when I get up well before the sunrise day after day just to experience that special, quiet time before the kids awake, before the phone starts dinging or the neighborhood weed eaters and lawnmowers begin roaring. 

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It’s during the early morning hours when I work out the confusing thoughts that spiral late at night. It’s during the early morning hours when I journal, read, seek spiritual guidance, listen to the birds and tap into the inner knowing that’s inside of all of us. When compared to the last couple of summers, I’ve been much more intentional this year about getting up early and taking advantage of the mystic wonder of the early morning hours. 

This summer has also reminded me that slow and easy often wins the race. By that I mean that the daily grind philosophy doesn’t always get you what you want or bring additional success or glory. In fact, it often does the opposite. 

Think about a cobbler or seamstress from a century ago. Once they finished their orders for the day, they would get paid for their work and be finished. Then along came the industrial revolution where workers were paid based on how much inventory they or a machine could produce during a set number of hours. Granted, I realize there are benefits to a manufacturing economy, but it instilled some hard habits to break within American culture. 

Even though much has changed since those days, there is still a predominance toward the eight-hour workday and hustle mentality. Supposedly, the more you hustle the more successful and esteemed you are; but what I’ve noticed about myself is the more I slow down, the more productive and creative I am. 

This topic reaches far and wide and I’m not meaning to oversimplify something as complicated as busting up the traditional workday or work week. What I’m getting at is that being mindful, present and intentional, no matter your work, often yields better results and a happier life than the anxiety-inducing rat race that has become the modern-day version of the American Dream. 

I’ve also realized over the past couple of months that we’re never too old to make new friends or deepen existing friendships. As a species, humans thrive off connection. Modern-day society almost encourages isolation, competition and individualism. 

This summer I’ve been participating in a group coaching session with two other women. We’ve been working on many aspects of life including mindset, spirituality and wellness. Most importantly, the three of us have grown very close and been vulnerable with our deepest fears and dreams. 

Additionally, I’m learning it’s OK to have a variety of close friends who fill us up in different ways. With some friends I love to talk about parenting, fitness and recipes, while with others its traveling, books, writing or business ideas. Some friends share my interest in the metaphysical and spiritual and some don’t. 

At the beginning of this summer, I made a commitment to take it easy and keep my mind open for new possibilities and whispers from the universe. While I haven’t traveled to far-away places this summer, I’ve enjoyed the beauty of the ancient mountains in our own backyard through hiking, visiting waterfalls, riding horses, paddle boarding and simply being outside. By giving myself a break from the world’s expectations, I feel more abundant and joyful than I have in a very long time. And for that, I’m very grateful.

(Suzanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist with The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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