In my last full time corporate job, we used one particular piece of software that continually proved a challenge for me.

I could crash it, freeze it, and otherwise lose hours of work without much effort. It was frustrating on a regular basis.

Truth be told, if you need a beta tester for anything—software, kitchen gadget, lawn tool—I’m the gal for you. I can find the glitch in any program or gadget without much effort. This ability is one of my more unique skillsets. Yes, I am quite proud of it.

Among other difficult tasks, Helen handled this peculiar software for our employer. Being a prompt, helpful, and kind soul, I appreciated her deeply. Especially since I know that I can try any IT person’s patience. Those folks could write books based on the issues I raise for them to fix.

After I rebooted the ancient HP laptop I was stuck using, I thought about throwing it around my office, but recognized that wasn’t the solution. Nothing I tried solved my problem, so off I was to bother Helen once again. After she’d heard my description of what was going on, in her divinely sublime manner, Helen said, “Sometimes we all need a system restart.”

Wasn’t she right in so many ways?

Around that time, a group of women got together at my home to start the The Artist’s Way workshop—a 12-week creativity-jumpstarting program. From that first meeting, it seemed each of us were doing some variation of a self-system re-start. 

Although I instigated the class, I think mine was the least amount of self-revelation of the six of us—not because I’m more creative or more in tune with myself, but because I’m the person whose mind never stops whirling with ideas combined with self-critiquing. What is momentous about undertaking a workshop like The Artist’s Way is the inspiration you receive and give by sharing with others and learning from them. The group often jolted me into a new view on an old problem or provided a fresh idea coming from a brand new place, breaking through my self-imposed limitations and how to figure out how to break old habits and get some new, better ones started. 

A remarkable aspect in doing something new as an adult is that we prompt ourselves by wanting to do more new. When we change life—each time we attempt the unknown, our brain has that re-start we need to keep the gray cells humming along, keeping us in a place of challenge, and affording opportunities for improvement. 

If all I ever pursue in life is reading and writing, how will I enable my brain to learn something completely unknown? How will I force my fingers to try crocheting? Vocal cords to speak a foreign language? Perform a new workout plan without falling over mid-way through it due to my lack of coordination?

On our recent trip to Pembrokeshire, Wales multiple exceptional moments happened. One was that my niece Jenny drove a car on the opposite side of the road—a bucket list item checked off for her. My sister Jackie and I were impressed as we watched her daughter adapt to driving in the wrong lane and using her left hand to switch gears instead of her right.

I learned to read a UK Ordinance Survey map and came to understand the pros and cons of the different roadways. Jackie learned to use my Nikon CoolPix to take the most amazing shots of this beautiful place.

At a 300-year-old (plus!) cottage we rented, one of the owners lives next door. At 92, he is a well-educated, well-traveled man, an engaging conversationalist, and sheer delight to spend time with.

Leslie Lindquist of Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Our new friend Leslie

During our rambles to the estuary together and rambling conversations with Leslie, I mentioned having popcorn to which he commented, “You know, I’ve heard of it in the movies, but I’ve never tasted it.” We traipsed into his kitchen and Jenny made it for him. He was fascinated that it was made with real corn kernels. But alas, even Paul Newman’s butter version didn’t impress him. Jenny explained the various items we add to a basic bowl of popcorn to give it more taste—and unhealthiness!

I love that at his age there was this simple food that most Americans grow up eating, taking for granted, that he had never tried. Leslie’s enthusiasm to sample popcorn was invigorating. It’s no wonder that at his age he’s a most engaging of conversationalists with his zest for learning.

My birthday was during that trip and as I ticked off another number, I found myself thinking, what will I learn in the second half of this, the 59th year of my life? What can I try that may be whimsical and yet educational in some way? What’s around the corner, waiting for me to reach out and grab it?

The introspection brought on by exploring The Artist’s Way started my shutting off the old systems and starting up again with a brand new OS in place. This part of my life’s journey may be one of the best upgrades I’ve ever done!