The Age of Reflection

As 2020 peeks over an ever closer horizon, many of us are reflecting on the last decade. What did we hope it would bring and what would we rather forget from the last ten years? A man I encountered in the steam room after a post Christmas swim declared that he hated the commericalism of Christmas so didn’t celebrate it (of course, he mused, if he had children, everything would be different). He then offered his advice on diets; he was a vegan for three years and now swears by the keto diet. He is turning 50 in April and feels optimistic. He didn’t enjoy his 40s but hears that people say 50 is the new 40 so will have his time again.

Leaving one decade and moving into the next is an opportunity to restart and recalibrate. Astonishingly, I have been in extended leadership in teaching for the entire decade (firstly as Head of Art, then Head of Faculty). As this was never my intention, this is a remarkable feat expecially in light of the recent statistic that 36,000 teachers have left teaching since the Conservative government claimed the country. 2010 was also the year, after losing my dear friend Lisa to cancer, that I decided to realign my work-life balance. This has proven to be a worthy mantra over the years and it’s only now I feel, that there are some moves towards this at a school level. It is ever more pertinent that we remember ourselves, our friends and family. I come back to what I said at the time, I don’t want to lose myself. Looking outward, as well as being present, is becoming a real challenge in our frenetic, over-connected existence. We obliviously create our echo chambers but are not present within them. Distractions, of which there are many, enable us to disengage with our immediate lives and cease to listen. In 2010, we were still listening. Now, we need to reengage. Social media informs me that if you reach 2020 and you were born in the 1980s, you have lived in 4 different decades, 2 different centuries and 2 different millennia and you’re not even 40 yet. This applies to most of my peers. The world continues to be a different place to the one we have known and it may become unrecognisable in the very near future.

Could we be moving from the age of anxiety into the age of reflection? Catastrophe is already here. So we can only act, listen, work together to repair some damage. We must look beyond ourselves to act and avoid the apathy which can descend after defeat. To avoid complacency and the default of blame. We are all responsible and must create change. I am very aware of moving up the generations; we lost our last grandparent in June, and my niece was born in August. I hope that 2020 and the coming decade will force us to reflect and act on what we have learnt. It’s an opportunity to become more outward facing but also to listen and honestly connect with those who make us feel uncomfortable.

This will also be a year of joy. I will marry the love of my life, who has already taught me more than I can share here. I am grateful for the new friends who I have met in the last decade, and those who have been with me far longer. I have said goodbye to many friends since 2010 and while I don’t regret the time we shared, I wonder how I might have made better choices and been more honest with myself. I have learned that you must hold on to those you love and give them and yourself room to grow and change. If they are meant to be your person, they will be there for you always, without conditions. You can make amends and those who are able to will listen. Leave your heart open, be kind and be honest and you will find your home.

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