Photo Credit: Fast Times at Ridgemont High
While I am undeniably a summer girl, to paraphrase Nora Ephron there’s something about this time of year that makes me want to buy school supplies. Bring on the Trapper Keeper and ditch the busted flip flops, it’s back to school season.
Regardless of whether you or your kiddos are boarding a yellow bus, the start of the school year feels like a good time to award yourself a clean slate and go learn something. Which is why when I wrote The Deck with Dr. Monisha Vasa, we included this journaling prompt:
“Back to School”
What does that phrase mean to you?
Where does that feeling arise in adulthood?
Try out writing your answer for at least 5 full minutes. And I challenge you to do this without it feeling like…
- It’s a test
- Someone will be grading you
- You’re going to have to read it aloud in front of the class
Because none of the above is true. Unlike school, your journal is for one set of eyes only - your own. No judgements necessary.
After you write it’s a good practice to check in with yourself. What imagery showed up? What feelings emerged? Was it stressful, exciting? Both? Be present to all of it.
Being open to learning new things (particularly complex ones) is a great way to boost neuroplasticity. I am all about staying mentally limber via the brain’s ability to reorganize pathways and even make new neurons - known as “neurogenesis.” It used to be believed that after childhood it was all downhill in the neurogenesis department, but newer research has revealed that our noggins never stop changing in response to learning. This is good news.
The other day I was talking with a friend of mine who is a proper waterman, a truly talented lifelong surfer. His wave knowledge, strength and abilities outpace anything I could hope to accomplish in this lifetime as someone who came to surfing as an adult. I was venting my frustrations about my limitations, telling him that I really wish I were a better surfer. (Whining, basically.)
He said simply, “I wish I were a better surfer, too”
I found that to be such a generous and illuminating statement. It made me realize that there is no destination at which I’ll arrive in my surfing and say, “I’m here - I made it.” On the contrary, it’s likely that I’ll keep pushing myself in new directions stylistically, in more challenging environments or on different kinds of surfcraft.
It’s a convenient analogy -- the balance between attaining levels of mastery and being open, humble as a novice. This reminded me of some wise words from Julia Cameron, the O.G. of journaling:
“Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is not something that can be perfected, finished, and set aside. It is my experience that we reach plateaus of creative attainment only to have a certain restlessness set in. Yes, we are successful. Yes we have made it, but…
In other words, just when we get there, there disappears.”
So we go back to school - for neuroplasticity, for creativity, for life.
PS: Below are some resources inspired by the cross-country road trip I recently drove from Maine to Malibu. Hope you’ll find something that will surprise, delight you or plant a seed for you to go explore. It’s pretty great out there.
Photo credit: Roadside Senryu
Words as visual art. Check out this story behind the whimsical road-sign poems popping up along America’s highways. In the summer of 2020, an anonymous artist who goes by the name of Roadside Senryu started installing road signs inscribed with poems, a joy for those driving past them and for communities nearby.
There are few things in life that are more joyful than a dog running on a beach. But it’s not always easy to find dog-friendly sandy spots. Here’s a good list to get you and your furry best friend started.
Photo credit: Garry Miller/Getty
This audiobook got us from Maine to Nebraska, entertained all the way. Multiple people had mentioned to me that McConaughey is a huge proponent of journaling, but it took me until I had long stretches of highway to commit to giving his memoir a listen and I was pleasantly surprised. He gives good story.
Photo Credit: Robin Catinella
Need to update your bucket list? Two of my favorite activities (hiking and beaching) collide in this article that provides plenty of material for daydreams and IRL plans. Packing list includes: hiking boots and bikinis. Check, check.