Reset for 2023
My 2022 is, on balance, a failure. Beginning of the year, I was working towards two projects: Setting up a new institution in London and transforming an existing one elsewhere. The first one failed even before we started, as the potential partners, after months of negotiation, backed off, due to problems at their end. The second project also ended in failure: Innovation within a diploma mill mindset is never easy! I should have known: I have tried similar things before and failed. However, this time, the failure was a bit of a relief, as my optimism was tempered and freed my hand to focus completely on education innovation.
However, it's my personal life which made 2022 even a bigger failure. Ever since I had to fly back from Melbourne as an emergency to attend what intially seemed a Covid-induced illness, my father's health dominated my life for the next six months. When he passed away end of August, he was a shadow of the man he was only a few months ago. That he retained his radiant smile and his unflinching optimism until the last only made the parting even more painful.
Around the same time, my creative enterprise, attempts to build a new form of education, was also thrown into chaos. For me, due to my passionate and emotional commitment to my 'mission', personal and professional are never disconnected. However, I was building my castle on shaky foundations. After having spoken about building a values-based institution, I had to confront an act of personal betrayal. Both the act and my immature reaction to it threatened the project I was committed to and I am only recovering from it now. This is part of my fresh starts agenda in 2023, but I am still not sure what lessons to learn for it. Is it that I should never be so involved and instead adopt a compartmentalised attitude towards work and life? Or is it that I trusted the wrong person(s) due to my optimism about people and need to be more sceptical about people as a whole? Or is it that I should change myself first, and stop thinking in terms of missions and other esoteric objectives altogether, and come to terms that I only do commercial work and there is no place for seeking meaning in this?
Of course, in my dark mood, I can not find one good thing to say about 2022, but there were some. Some were pure commercial wins - an idea we developed gained traction and this is why I am looking at 2023 with hope - and others were more intellectual ones. I, as a part of a team, pulled off a great conference and published a handbook, articulating our vision about changing workplaces and changing structures of education. This is a project I shall always remember and cherish, along with a penny-dropping moment: The last proper conversation I had with my father (before he fell really ill and had to be taken to the hospital, never to return), he asked for this book. I eagerly gave it to him, hoping he wants to read, despite discomfort, what I have written. However, he only wanted the book to be put under his pillow, as he was struggling, and not to read. The profound absurdity of what we want and what life does to us should have been clear to me then, though it took me a while to grasp it.
The other interesting thing that happened to me during this bleak year is unshackling of my emotions. I have always lived a constrained life, never expressing what I felt, always being careful or responsible, as I thought of myself to be. My disappointments, sadness, failures freed me in a way. I started writing poetry. Of course, I am no better than Charles Lamb's monkeys - once in a while, I write a semi-decent one - but the fact that I write is a miracle. Never before, I mastered the courage to talk about how I feel. As I look back, I am grateful to the torture of 2022 to let me show my heart at last! And, once the genie is out, there is no putting it back in the bottle again. Here, in my less-sober moments, I would think of being like Prometheus, stealing the consolation of poetry from the hard world of personal loss and withering of friendships. I know what happened to Prometheus as punishment and perhaps it will come.
So, as I bid audieu to the short 2022, I am ready for a reset. We are at an interesting point when what we are building gets traction. I am also hoping to change myself and start immersing myself in an intellectually engaged community. Commitment has been an issue for me - for many years, I have not started a year knowing what I would be doing at the end of it - and 2023 may become an exception on that front. As things stand now, I am looking to continue doing what I am doing for at least 12 to 18 months, though my engagement with work could be very different. I am also hoping, finally, to get back to school and complete the research degree I promised myself for so long: That is my only escape route from the prosaic life I lead (and excuse to get rid of brain-dead conversations I often find myself in). The only thing I want to escape 2022 with is my unrestrained heart and my ability to have an open conversation with myself. That way, I shall be able to leave 2022 well and truly behind.