Lots of you reading this blog know that I’ve gone through a hard time this year, with having to leave India and with the decline in my mother with her dementia. There have been many days when I have felt truly awful, for example the day when I heard my mother was rejected from a dementia care home, and yet when I meet people and they ask how I’m doing I still find it incredibly hard to say what I’m feeling. In fact many of us smile and say polite things, even when we don’t feel like it. And in the long run, this causes a problem. We tell “white lies” and agree with people who we actually don’t agree with. We stay silent when we hear something that we really should challenge. We pretend to be friends with people that we dislike. And because of this, because we know other people are also doing this, it can lead to a lack of trust, where you’re unsure if someone is really saying what they mean, or just what they think you want to hear. This goes along with social media likes: some people feel so much pressure to be liked that they reconfigure their entire personality to get other people’s approval. In fact it’s almost as if we have been indoctrinated with the belief that we need to be as accepting and affirmative as possible. But, Mark Manson writes in his book The Subtle Art …, we need to reject something, otherwise we stand for nothing and therefore live our lives without purpose. He writes:
We are defined by what we choose to reject. And if we reject nothing (perhaps in fear of being rejected by something ourselves), we essentially have no identity at all.
So perhaps I have to start saying no a little more. Am I doing OK – well often the answer is no: I’m packing up, I’m sorting out, I’m throwing out. It’s tough. I hang onto the thought that something good will come of this, but getting through these last few weeks is hard. I’ve said no to meetings and social events recently and I feel better for it. Thankfully I have amazing colleagues who are kind, caring and who show me every day that what I’ve done over my 6 years here has been impactful and influential – on them and on our students. This is just the end of one chapter – it’s not the end of the book. There’s another chapter waiting to be written, and pretty soon I’m going to be doing just that.