Turn and the face the change: a very apt title from the wonderful back catalogue left by David Bowie, one of the many unexpected and premature deaths that seem to have characterised 2016.
Many have branded 2016 as the “worst year ever”, citing in particular the Brexit vote and its aftermath, the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency, multiple terrorist atrocities and the aforementioned celebrity deaths.
It is very easy to join in with this chorus of negativity, but two points come to my mind: firstly, I think that many of those who talk doom and gloom should perhaps consider swapping their lives in our comfortable Western democracies in 2016 with those of people in many other parts of our contemporary world, or indeed with those of British people in, say 1940 or 1916, before declaring their lives to be quite so shitty. However bad things seem, there are far worse places to live and for worse eras to live in. Secondly, I think we should be very careful about seeing everything through the filter of the hyper-connected and over-reactive world in which we live, rather than through our own response. In other words, are we over-influenced by a collective response to what happens, rather than just forming our own reaction?
My memory of the elections of Margaret Thatcher as UK Prime Minister or Ronald Reagan to the Presidency in 1980 is that these were accompanied by similar ridicule, bewilderment and hysteria about imminent Armageddon, but there was not the same opportunity for mass reaction, and so that reaction was more muted, confined mainly to the traditional media, with no chance for hashtags and social media campaigns.
Yes, we may well feel that both of those figures of hate and fun from the 1980s inflicted much harm upon their respective countries and indeed the wider world, but we all survived. And we have all survived 2016, and will no doubt survive 2017 and beyond, albeit with plenty of hurt and sorrow along the way.
If 2016 can teach us two things, it is that nothing is more inevitable than change, and that we do not always get what we want. Many of us, myself included, are deeply unhappy and apprehensive about the changes that 2016 has brought about, just as we all get upset in our daily lives about all sorts of things: the new boss’s policies at work, refereeing decisions in football, winners of Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent - whatever may upset us at any given moment. Life isn’t fair, shit happens, and we don’t always agree with those who have power over us, but I always feel that we spend too much time wishing that things were otherwise. Turn and face the change.
I faced my own change in 2016, retiring from full-time work and in particular from a role which I, and only I, had undertaken for 25 years, as Head of Sixth Form, a position of considerable influence over the lives of the young people with whom I worked. Of course I miss it, and as I still work in the same school, I watch my old job being done by others, in a different way.
But as one door closes, others are opening. Over the past two years, I have become increasingly involved in the community of my fellow Type One Diabetics, and have found new opportunities, new friendships and new experiences which provide me with fresh challenges for 2017 and beyond. I hope to have the opportunity to help others, be it online or face-to-face, to live and flourish as I have done with a condition which is difficult yet manageable. I hope to use the skills and experience gained in a lifetime of teaching in new and different ways. Accepting that I am getting older and not in perfect health, I hope to have a life which is less physically demanding yet still busy.
My life is changing, the world is changing. Let’s stop moaning and get on with it.
Happy New Year!