Gary Tetz

I’m a slow and resistant student in the classroom of life. And perhaps the truth I face most reluctantly is how unwelcome and painful challenges teach lessons that I probably wouldn’t learn any other way. 

If you’re like me, at your lowest moments you’ve felt the intense desire to slap anyone who waltzes in, puts their well-intended hand on your shoulder, and says, “Something good will come from this,” or “At least you learned something, right?” But the fact we eventually accept, usually months or years after, is that they’re right.  

Hard times teach and reveal incredibly valuable nuggets of wisdom that inevitably trigger positive growth. As I talk to folks in long-term care, they’re starting to verbalize the lessons of the pandemic, and I’m hearing some common themes, especially from owners and administrators. Your own list might vary, but I suspect it would include most or all of the following:

You learned who the true leaders are in your organization.

You learned what you value, personally and professionally.

You learned who really cares about vulnerable seniors. 

You learned whether you have a job or a mission.

You learned people’s actual motives. 

You learned whom you can count on.

You learned who the heroes are. 

You learned what matters.  

As tragic as the COVID-19 ordeal has been, these are lessons that couldn’t have been effectively taught or received in a textbook or classroom. Also included as part of this forced curriculum, we saw beauty in the midst of tragedy, calm in chaos and heroism rising from horror. And as light appears on the horizon, hopefully we’re coming to realize that recognizing bittersweet blessings like these can actually inspire moments of gratefulness within all the sorrow and fatigue we still feel. 

At some point when navigating difficult and unwanted challenges, I feel inclined to tip my head back and scream at the universe, “Stop with the lessons already! I’ve learned too much for even one partial lifetime.” And at moments like those, I’m grateful that the words of Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, are still stuck in my brain. “Almost everything that matters is difficult,” he wrote, “and everything matters.” 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the recent APEX 2020 Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.