This post was last updated on 4 months ago at 4 months ago
As a parent of 4 adult children, I have witnessed a reoccurring conversation, particularly from about ages 17-25. This is a significant time of transition for everyone as we move from high school to college to employment. There are a number of stepping stones during that time that is often seen as barriers to overcome. Whether it’s graduating, passing a difficult course or finding new living quarters or applying for a job, these all cause a great deal of stress and while in the middle of them, my kids will say something like, “things will be better when I get through this.” While it’s understandable and relatable, I was quick to remind them all that they needed to be careful not to wish these moments away. Many times these barriers were just that, they were in the way of a goal. Applying for jobs for example is not something anyone likes but it’s necessary. Taking a difficult course, while perhaps seen as just a barrier, hopefully, has some relevant and useful learning to be savoured. While this time of life might contain more change and disruption than others, the truth is life will always have these kinds of barriers. For most of us, this is just life. If we’re not careful, we will always think about our current struggles and focus on getting past them and on to something else. Again, that’s not necessarily bad but it can lead to a life that is never satisfied, content or simply appreciates that struggles are actually good for us.
I’m thinking about the current state of our world. After over a year of living with a deadly virus, we’re starting to see a way out. We’ve all had to make sacrifices, some more than others and certainly, it has not been equal in its impact. Schools and teachers have had a range of experiences and challenges as well. But everyone now sees vaccinations as a great hope as we should. For a year, we likely all have said or thought, “things will be better when….” We likely looked back at past years and remember fondly being able to do things we can’t do now. Educators recall how schools used to gather in large groups, engage in extracurricular activities and attend conferences. I look forward to those things. However what I see that has emerged from this is that those teachers, schools and districts that had well-established cultures and relationships, we’re able to maintain them to a great degree. Lots of schools have lovely mission statements and stated values but this year we witnessed whether or not they were really believed and lived or simply text on a page. If you a lousy relationship with your principal or district leader, I doubt whether the pandemic did anything more than amplify the problems. We all saw how equity issues, in general, were not created but exposed. But I also think our values were exposed as well, for better or worse.
The vaccine, as great as it is, will not change these problems. Things may be better in some respects but it’s not going to solve as many problems as we might think. This Saturday Night Live sketch is equal parts hilarious and poignant.
“If you’re sad now, you might be sad after”
I write this with 2 things in mind. First to remind me that life is full of struggles and wishing them away is natural but also shouldn’t be completely seen as something to get through. There are lots of “silver lining” conversations and realizations that have occurred in the past year. I’m careful not to project my silver linings to others as we all have experienced this differently and many like myself have been privileged to live in a way that others have not. But I do struggles are universal and each of us had to learn to live and embrace them. Second, simply looking ahead to a new situation will not solve all our problems. If problems existed before, it’s not likely that a change of scenery or circumstances will make them go away.
I don’t write this to downplay or dismiss the future. I’m so excited to get vaccinated and start doing the work I’ve been waiting to do. While I do it all virtually now, I’m getting tired of it as I shared in this thread. I’m so looking forward to travelling, connecting with leaders, presenting in person and being in schools and classrooms. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy spending time with family, appreciating a walk in my neighbourhood, checking in on my family and friends to make sure they’re okay. Things will be better when I get the vaccine but things are also pretty good right now.
Quick Update: Here’s another great video that is a reminder of how our constant looking ahead for something better is problematic.