#thisisimaginationatwork – Instalment #27 – December 2020
I’ll admit the combo pressure of an end-of-year post and feeling like I needed to have the perfect thing to say as a response to Blair’s last blog was leaving me a bit paralyzed until I realized that not having the answers has kind of been my jam all year.
We entered 2020 as a completely different organization than we are now. We were a team of three, starting to find our stride, or so we thought. We had a full year of funding for The Stories of Us, we had committed to a 2 week trip to the East Coast to deliver in-person train-the-trainer sessions, we had a solid group of LINC teachers who we were working with to co-design and implement The Stories of Us in their classrooms, and establishing partnerships to expand our national reach. Quite honestly, things were falling into place so nicely.
But then, just like everyone else, our plans were halted. We hung out in limbo for a few months not knowing how to proceed. We weren’t sure how much could be postponed and how much had to be adapted. As LINC classes pivoted to remote learning, our original plans to implement The Stories of Us into classrooms felt out of place and we were cautious of intruding as everyone was settling into the “new normal”. Instead, we had to find new places to do our work and in a lot of ways, that felt like starting over.
I watched our team come together and grow in new ways this year, personally and professionally. In many ways, 2020 feels like a blur, like a dream, like a movie that never ends. I relied on a great deal of adrenaline to get through the first few months, then on trying to establish a rhythm and routine, and then on a strong desire to stop relying on old broken systems and to start reimagining what might come next.
I am grateful for the time we spent supporting each other emotionally and mentally, it is easy to say we are here for you if you need something, but the regular Monday “meetings” Mathura had with my kids meant so much to them to feel included in this weird new world.
This year, I’ve found fuel to keep going by focusing on the future. I’ve heard so many times this year that people just want things to “go back to normal”. But what was normal? So much has happened this year, from Black Lives Matter, a global pandemic, the first WOC Vice President, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, murder hornets, wildfires, typhoons, to name a few. I know the idea of going back to “normal” is about craving stability and certainty, but I really think what we need more of is how to build the muscles to face uncertainty.
This year, I’ve put on my foresight hat more than once. I’ve introduced foresight to students and teachers, to frontline workers and organizational leaders, to immigrants and community members. I’ve seen foresight be a tool to ignite new conversations and become a powerful way to gain back the unsteadiness this year has caused. Too often, people feel comfortable or even complacent in feeling like the future is laid out and predictable. This year has proven just how untrue that can be.
Looking back to December 2019, coronavirus had just started making headlines but the world could not have predicted what was to come. From a foresight perspective, this complete overhaul is what system change scenarios are made from. When we are fed up with the status quo, when the systems we have relied on are exhausted and failing, when we have witnessed inequities grow and divide, when we have seen increased mental health awareness and challenges, or when the whole world has to adopted new habits just to survive. This is when new futures are possible. We are no longer held back by “but that’s the way it has always been” mindsets.
Heading into 2021, this will be the first time I am the Executive Director. It has been a full month since I took over from Blair, I am slowly wrapping my head around administrative duties. I will admit, I do wake up at weird hours thinking about budgets and my to-do lists…that’s normal right? Each day, I feel like I am tackling a really big puzzle – one where I can sort of see the edges and have a few of the corners figured out but really have no idea what is happening in the middle – it is overwhelming but each time I feel like I am able to fit one more piece in I have a little bit of calm before starting all over again.
Just like starting this blog post, I struggle with aiming for perfectionism as the Executive Director, so I am going to do my best to remember that it is not my job to have all the answers, it is my job to do what I do best, which is to seek support from the people around me, to share and document the processes that work and don’t work and to imagine new systems.
With the role of Executive Director, I am working to reset some of my own biases about what an Executive Director is “supposed” to be in order to see myself in this role. I imagine this reset will come with a lot of growing pains and learning.
With the final days of 2020 approaching, I am looking back at a year that will for sure leave a major impact on the years to come. 2020 was undeniably a year of utter uncertainty, grief, gratitude, and growth. As usual, I am yearning for a clever ending to this blog post but am left with no words of wisdom, no witty comments or funny remarks, just the feeling of ongoing transition and survival mode. I know we are not out of the pandemic yet and may not be for quite some time, so in the meantime, I feel lucky that we get to keep plugging away at the work we do.
I hope you and yours are as well as can be expected in the final days and hours of 2020 and that in 2021, we might find new ways to connect and work together.