I had a great catch up this evening with someone I used to teach at Plymouth University… culminating in this message…
… and it made me think.
I always found that the cycles and milestones of working in formal education gave so much impetus to reflect, perhaps even more so for those of us ‘staff’ working in that context and seeing the milestones over and over than those in the role of ‘student’ experiencing for perhaps the first time. The start of a new year, the end of another autumn term, the arrival of a new cohort of students, the graduation of another; all these markers ping your attention back to the last time you thought about them, and the many times over the years you’ve experienced them… right back to your own school or student days.
The group Alice is part of are on their final placement, a 12 (ish) week stint in schools before they return to University for the final term of studies for the degree, and then…
The next part could be anything. Up until this point many (although not all) have had that structure ahead of them; go to school, go to 6th form or college, get in to University, study hard, do your placements, and then…
The next step is such flexibility. Even if, as I know many of them will, they take the path laid before them to become a teacher they will have so many options. What to prioritise? The age range to teach, locality to work in, place to live, type of school to work in. Some will choose to move to a different part of the world entirely, others to use their degree or their other considerable capabilites to do something entirely different.
They have that natural break point coming up, and I know many of us seeing them approach that and reflecting will be envious.
It is an envied position to be in to have so many options, although I know from experience how challenging and potentially paralysing that can sometimes be.
The thing is, it isn’t just in the natural breaks you have the options. The natural breaks focus your attention on potential forks in the path that your like might take, but if that is such a thing to envy why don’t more of us do it more deliberately more often?
There are many reasons, it is costly in terms of effort, time and even money. Yet if it is worthy of such deep envy that we sometimes feel, perhaps it is worthy of considering the trade off of cost or time or money and the resultant benefits.
After our early twenties life in our society doesn’t give us so many forced milestones on which to pivot. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t put them in place ourselves. Our decisions define who we are, if you make yourself make more decisions do you end up more closely defining who you actually become?
Perhaps that is the excitement I was trying to express in my tweet, that potential of being in control of those milestones, and decisions that define us. Its enviable certainly but its made me think, not for the first time, that there is much to be learned from spotting what has such potential and making it happen not just by chance.