Nothing to say about the new year.

I mean, obviously it’s not that I really have nothing to say. But I don’t have advice for the Doctors I have worked with on leadership. Nor to people who suddenly have to work from home. Nor would I give advice to the self employed who suddenly can’t work at the moment (and for how long?). I might have something to offer those who have lost their jobs as this has happened to me many times.

But I think maybe there could be something different I could draw from the experience we are going through at the moment.

Like most of us I would stand on the pavement outside my house at 8pm on Thursdays and applaud. It became a ritual of a type I have never seen before. I know one friend who was driving back from her long shift as a nurse on Thursday who said it was a real morale boost to see it happening all along her route home. But I am not about to go into some lament about how we used to be a community and maybe how we should return to it. My parents were of the wartime generation and both loathed the sentimentality of looking back to the war as a better time and had no good words for the “we’ll meet again” dirge. So why have I decided to put finger to keyboard and suggest that I have something to say that is worthy of your time?

It is this.

I read this somewhere “When the restrictions are lifted, be careful what you bring back of your old life.”

I think this is an excellent challenge. There is always something interesting to be had from any challenge. Some people interpret this as how they can make the situation work to their advantage but I think there is potential for enormous positivity. So what is it that you are not going to take back into the normal life when you can go out to the pub/shop/holiday? Or go back to work “normally”?

For me, the thing that really hit home was how the isolation in ones home highlighted the need for human connection. Like so many others I am spending my days in conference calls and my leisure time with my immediate family. My family are lovely people but there is something significant missing in my life with the loss of every-day real contact with others. Yes there are some benefits – we are going on walks as a family and my 12 year old comes along without a single protest which will definitely not outlast the quarantine! But I really miss being in a room with different people. I love working with a wide range of people and being friends with people from very different backgrounds and whose work is totally different to my own. I love spending time with lots of different viewpoints, backgrounds, and especially being with people I care about. I don’t think I took this for granted before but I will make sure I savour it even more in future.

We have also discovered something really amazing at my work: we can pull things out of the bag in an incredible way. I won’t give my own examples because I am sure that everyone reading this will know what I mean – it is happening everywhere. Somehow we found that there are vast amounts of expertise, innovation, flexibility, collaboration and optimism that too often gets squeezed out by due process or fear of criticism or just being cautious. We have been forced to go into ways of working we never would have imagined even a few months ago. We have worked through the confines of video calls and messaging to make things work against apparently impossible odds. And I have taken huge inspiration from the students we work with who have also found ways to carry on their studies and even broaden out their interests by learning new skills and becoming resilient to this massive global challenge.

I will take it as my mission to make sure we don’t forget these things and slide back into the old “normal”.

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