Happy New Year! A new year, but we’re still in the same times. I saw a meme this week that summed it up well for me - maybe you saw it too: a couple of clowns, the Joker and Pennywise, illustrating the transition from 2020 to 2021.
The only traditional image of Baby New Year I could find was wearing a mask. Each image fitting, yet not uplifting.
Despite this, I resolved to open this calendar year with an optimistic outlook. And, of course, January is the season for resolutions.
Then Wednesday happened.
For now, I need to pack that away – I still need time to process and reconcile the images, the tragedy, and the profound failure of leadership with my faith in humanity, lest my resolve becomes just another statistic. One source reports 43% of those who set resolutions expect to give up on them by February.
Resolve: isn’t that what school leaders spend the bulk of days doing, working toward a resolution of some description, sorting through issues and problem-solving? As for me, I feel confident with the verb… but I may need some help with the noun.
Like so many, I have entered many new years with a list of promises to myself, habits I need to stop, and things I need to begin. I typically have not shared these aloud. If I failed to follow through, I didn’t have to explain or justify the outcome to anyone – who would know? I have been a statistician’s poster boy in this regard, with one exception.
Some time ago, to help meet a goal, I adopted an app into which I feed data each day. Doesn’t really matter what the data is; the point is that I feel compelled to enter the data now, largely to keep my streak. I hesitate to admit the number of days in a row I have entered my data, and my wife would attest to the irrational timing of my dutiful record-keeping. It is not that I derive any satisfaction from the ritual. It is more a yoke I am saddled with, not allowing myself to put it down after all the time and effort I’ve invested!
My daughter has a similar habit, but in her case it is a Snapchat streak she is compelled to preserve. To preserve her streak, she and a friend commit to exchange at least one ‘snap’ each day. I tease her about the lengths she goes to in order to preserve this streak, blind to the irony. She is compulsive; I am dedicated.
Declaring a commitment and seeking renewal should not be a source of stress, punishment, compulsion, or shame. There must be a more forgiving approach.
My wife, too, has an app. She is not addicted to data entry or a streak, but rather she takes time every day to feed upon inspiration – and one morning last week, I eavesdropped. In paraphrase, I heard intention is more compassionate than resolution. If I intend to eat more healthy in the new year, that bag of Hawkins cheezies is not a failure or a break in my streak; I can view it with less judgement. I need not give up in defeat because each day presents me with a new opportunity to live with my intention.
As fate would have it, I happened to engage in a conversation with a new Vice-Principal shortly afterward. She declared that Principals and Vice-Principals deserve to eat lunch, and she intended to do so each day. She happened to share this with me at two o’clock in the afternoon, just as she was about to eat her meal. I hope that she managed to do so without interruption. But if she were not successful that day nor the next, this will not have broken her resolve because her intention is far more than the specific goal she has set. She intends to value herself and model this for her colleagues, fostering an environment of care and support.
As this first week of 2021 comes to a close, I will think on leaders like her who populate all our schools; and I will find my faith somewhat restored.