The benefits of doing something we truly love

Classic view of the Ullapool villageThere are those who say that if you follow your heart in life and do something you really love doing, you will become rich if not famous! I think I understand the thinking behind this – if you are fully immersed in what you are doing, then there is no hard, grinding effort involved – you won’t need “self-discipline” to work at achieving your goals, you just do it and success follows on. In some ways, I know this is true from personal experience – my husband found the thing he loved doing early in his working life, and has spent the last 40 years and more doing it. He rushes up from the breakfast table to get to his desk, hates being interrupted and has to be dragged away in the evenings. He has no real need of “holidays” or a “break away” because he is doing what he loves – which is writing about aircraft and related subjects. This has not in any way made him rich, but it has given him an immense amount of satisfaction in life. Did Hillary really climb Everest “because it is there” or because he totally loved to climb mountains – I think the latter! Of course some people have become very rich and/or famous by following their heart and doing what they love, but it would seem that that bit doesn’t work for everyone. However, a life of satisfaction and fulfilment should certainly follow if you spend your life doing something you love to do.

I have been thinking a lot about this recently with regards to myself and my own life. I couldn’t really pinpoint what it is that I truly love to do! I have enjoyed doing many things in my life when the time has been right. I especially enjoyed keeping goats and making cheese – stirring a curd is one of the most relaxing things I think I have ever done! I miss the animals, but know that that time has gone by for me now. I was involved with craftwork in the form of spinning, knitting and natural dyeing for 20 years – but have now found that I have rather given it up and couldn’t wholly understand why! Nowadays, I can quite enjoy housework and doing the routine things that help make our lives run smoothly – but I certainly don’t love them! I do love my garden, but looking at it rather than the work itself! In fact, there are many things that I do in my life that I enjoy, but I couldn’t say in all honesty that I love doing them, and I was finding it difficult to pinpoint in my heart the one thing that I would really love to do!

Then this morning I had a bit of a revelation! I had been reading a wee story on this sort of subject – a tale about two rice farmers – and it came to me that the one thing I truly love to do is learning! I am not especially bright or academic – far from it – and of course, I only love learning things that interest me and that I have a capability for – science or mathematics would be far beyond me! – but as a for instance, I love history and would chose a history book over a novel for my bedtime reading any day. I suddenly realised that one of the reasons why working with textiles no longer fulfils me is that I now know everything there is to know about it – it ain’t rocket science! There is no learning challenge left there for me… Then I suddenly knew what it is I really love to do in life – which won’t make me rich but will certainly give me heaps of satisfaction and fulfilment – and that is learning the Gaelic language. I realised that if I had enough money, I would go on as many courses as I could – maybe even go to the Big City for a week or two. Last summer I think I had the best fortnight of my life when I was able – with the support of my ILA account and sponsorship – to go for a week to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (the Gaelic college on Skye) and thence to Ravenspoint on the Isle of Lewis for a further week of tuition. Absolute heaven…

Although I can’t do all the courses which maybe I would if I could afford it, I do grab every chance I can – which is why I was heading down the road to Ullapool early last Saturday morning. In fact, I had several options of things to do on this particular weekend, with the Midsummer Concert at the Kirk in Inchnadamph that evening, another botany day with the Field Club on Sunday and my art course in the afternoon. I couldn’t do everything – after all, I’m no Spring Chicken But for me the choice was easily made – Gaelic on Saturday, followed by the art class on Sunday.

This Gaelic course was another Cli day similar to the one to which I went in Kinlochbervie the other week. It was advertised as having two levels – beginners and intermediate – and from past experience, I thought that there would be a good turnout. In that I was disappointed – there were three of us from the west coast and two who had made the journey over from Inverness! There is something in the culture round here that says that nothing can happen in the summer months!! For those who work in the tourist industry, it is certainly a busy time of year when they earn the bulk of their living – but this attitude seems to spill over into a lot of people who don’t work in the industry, but somehow just can’t be persuaded to come to events during the summer! I’m afraid that there is just nothing to be done about that – it is too deeply rooted in the psyche of folk in the northwest highlands.

However, small groups can be very good for the learners, especially when you get a good tutor and on this day we got one of the best there is. I have been to quite a few Cli days which have been tutored by this chap – I used to think that his name was “Alec Valtos” but Valtos is in fact the township where he was born and brought up. I still think of him as that even though I now know his name is actually Alec MacDonald! Four of the five of us were at a more advanced level, leaving Effie as the one “beginner”. Effie is going on in years and claims to have been doing beginners’ courses in Gaelic for 50 years!! Her grandparents had Gaelic but unfortunately for Effie, there was no Gaelic in her childhood home – not an uncommon story. However, you know darn well that Effie has a lot more Gaelic locked away inside her than she realises and we all agreed that it was time she moved on from beginners’ classes!! Of course, the imbalance in the group did not make life easy for Alec, but with a tutor of his calibre, nothing is too difficult and Effie enjoyed the class as much as the rest of us. I think we all went home having gained from the session – I certainly did – and no-one can ask for more than that.

I am absolutely certain that I am far from the only one who loves learning and especially Gaelic. Alec is now a mature student at Aberdeen University studying Gaelic and Education while broadcasting on Rèidio nan Gàidheal and teaching adult groups such as this one. He obviously loves Gaelic – which is his first language – and all that love and enthusiasm for his language comes over in his lessons. I can think of several tutors who are of this ilk… To them, passing on the language is more of a calling than a job – they love doing it and would travel from here to Timbuktu to follow that calling. Will that make them rich? Unlikely, but I am sure they are far more fulfilled in life than those who do a job they really don’t love.

As for me personally, I now realise that Gaelic above all other things is what I truly love learning. A wee while ago, I tried to bring back the German I learned many moons ago. My German friend, Theresia, was helping me in this and I was enjoying it – but I wasn’t loving it. So when I found I was running short of the time needed to do all the things I have to do in life, it was the German that had to go… Yup – for me Gaelic is the thing, and I’m sure it will certainly keep me happy and fulfilled for the rest of my days

The Cèilidh Place where the course took place

[Photo of Flying 15s and boats on moorings by Andrew Woodthorpe; all other photos by Clarinda]

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