Happy New Year! (Take a deep breath)

We receive a lot of invitations in January.

They want us to go for it, to make a change, to transform into a better version of ourselves. And these offers, these promises, they always seem to cost money.

Sure, sometimes you have to invest your time, energy, and money. But I’m not in such a hurry, this week, to jump on board someone else’s train.

I’ve decided to take a deep breath, and I hope you will too. Because this year is going to be just as long as the one before.

Every January 1st, I take a walk. This year, on the first day of a year that is filled with promise and plans and uncertainty, I took the walk by myself.

I walked to the railway tracks near my home, and I looked down to the river that runs alongside, and I looked to the bend, the mysterious unseen future, and I took a deep breath.

My vision was clear, I was filled with confidence, and I could feel the pieces of my professional and personal life settle into place like counters on the simplest of board games.

Two days later, I wake up with a raw throat, sore skin and a hacking cough.

Thirty minutes later, my doctor tells me I have pneumonia or bronchitis. During the visit, I cough on command and manage to hurt my back in the process.

This ailment combination took me out of the classroom for 5 days. And I’m not a patient patient. (Like most people who say they’re not a control freak, I’m a bit of a control freak.) I’m especially impatient when I’ve planned to do a bunch of cool stuff and then have to sit back (lie back, on this occasion) and watch none of it happen.

I’m back in the classroom now, scaring clients with the beginnings of a beard that has yet to transition from ‘vagrant’ to ‘distinguished’. And as I talk with clients about their 2017 plans, I’m suddenly two weeks behind with my own.

So maybe I should call it quits on 2017, perhaps I should fast-forward to the end of the year.

That’s where the breathing comes in. There’s nothing like bronchitis (my doctor had terrible things to say about my right lung, he doesn’t think that one is up to the job at all) to make you appreciate deep breaths.

I spent 10 days unable to take one. Today, in fact, I still can’t do it without feeling a strain on my chest and a rattling in my airways. My laugh makes me sound like a cartoon villain, my cough routinely makes the cats think a goose has sneaked its way into the classroom.

So what about all the new stuff I was about to do? What about being brave, what about launching and reaching and testing my limits?

The funny thing about needing an inhaler to breathe — it really helps you slow down.

Yeah, I could force all this. I could just keep going and ignore the symptoms. Instead, I’m behaving, finally, like a smart guy, and pacing myself. I’m back in the classroom but I’m choosing new clients and projects carefully.

I’m lucky, I must be made of buried treasure, because just like every other illness I’ve had in my life, this one won’t last forever. This time next week, I’ll be back to full power, back in my exercise and teaching and learning and creating and communicating routines.

And for those who have already made your big decisions — something in the air, I think, because so many of my clients are starting 2017 explosively, with new jobs or moving to new countries — take the deep breath I’m so jealous of — do it now, and recognize that getting 2017’s first decision right doesn’t mean you can sit back and stop learning, just like getting it wrong doesn’t mean the end of your world.

You have plenty more turns and trips ahead of you. Plenty more deep breaths required.Remember to breath, remember you’re not as essential as you sometimes think you are, and remember the questions:

  • What do I want?
  • Where do I stand right now?
  • What can I do to move forward?
  • What help do I need from others?
  • Who do I need to talk to?
  • How can measure my progress?
  • What will I do when something goes wrong?

As I cough, and blow my nose, and clear my throat, I’m looking forward to this year, I have things to share with you, things I’m excited about. I have my own new products and services, my own razzle and dazzle.

But I’ll be asking myself the questions above, and just as importantly for Working English, I’ll help you with your own questions and answers.

Here’s to 2017. Let’s get to work. Let’s move forward. But it’s a long year — remember to breathe.

Teacher Hamish


And to the beautiful cattens 🐈 who got here long before the business did, Happy 5th Gotcha-versary, Maisy and Daisy!