Looking forward to spring

Katy Milkman points out that the Spring solstice is a good time to start new things. Certain days work well, her research shows, to start new endeavours: New year's day, birthday, anniversary of something significant! I have missed this year's start to do anything new; right now is my next best chance.

I am in the middle of a big change. I, along with a few other people, built a business over the years. But it was flawed from the start. My partners had different aims, which they, self-declaredly, did not disclose. It was more like an academic project put together, without proper structures. I went along with it, acknowledging the limits of my power and boundaries of my engagement. The goal for me was learning and doing, which I have done in abundance. But it was never meant to be a successful in its original aims because of its structural shortcomings, and right now, it is being morphed into something other than its intended form.

It is painful, as it will be for any creator involved in serious work. But I would be lying if I say that this was not expected. In that sense, I am rather relieved: My natural sense of responsibility was dragging me into covering other people, and it was taking me away from creative and meaningful work. I was firefighting almost all the time, and trying to help colleagues who could not do their jobs. I had to keep my ideas locked away as they couldn't be implemented. In summary, it was clear to me for some time that I was in the wrong room, but I lacked the will to leave. This recent restructuring afforded me that opportunity - a real spring cleaning - and I feel ready to start again.

But I have also learnt that I need to change. I lived through the last two years as a caretaker, responsible but not involved. My quest for a psychologically safe environment allowed freeloaders, my eagerness to share credits allowed entitled behaviour. My assumption that my views are best conveyed through an academic persona turned out to be mistaken: Particularly in India, the world's most neo-liberal country, symbols of status and power count, and humility is a baggage. It is only on reflection, I understand that my management style was totally unsuitable for some of the geographies I was dealing with. The trouble is that I did not want to be inauthentic - did not want to do something I don't believe in - and lived in a constant battle about how to act in some situations.

As I start again, I am trying to build from a local core outward. International education is by definition international, and there is no running away from India or China for us. But, unlike last time, I wish to focus on the core of the business first - a good institution, good curriculum, good partnerships, preferably in Europe or North America - before extending into India (or China) and try to do things remotely. That way, building the culture and the teams are easier. This mode also allows me to regulate my life better and foster stronger relationships where I am.

This has been a constant struggle for me. As an immigrant, I did not have a natural network in London, where I live. I had to build it from scratch, which was not easy for an introvert like me. But eventually, when my professional work helped me to connect to some people, travel intervened. The years away from London - 2014 to 2019 and then Covid - made me lose almost all good connections. Post-Covid, the two years of constant travel made it worse. But the last two months of not travelling have already started helping and I am feeling much more connected and comfortable now. I am hoping that I can keep this going and invest six months into this. Any education business is inherently local and I can't build it without connecting locally.

Therefore, my springtime agenda is long: Becoming more gounded, in a way! I have left the room I was in, a big step! Now I have to find my space where I am and start building again. I am aware that it is easier said than done, but I am ready to commit. My search has begun again.


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