Personally Speaking

by Susannah Friis, Editor The Lake News

Attending our youngest child’s various Grade 12 graduation ceremonies at the end of November was bittersweet for us. I think it will take us awhile to get used to the absence of years being divided into terms, of days limited to 8.30-3.00, of uniforms and packed lunches. As our children are quite spread out in ages, we have been living in the school rhythm for many, many years!

The 2020 graduates can tick off a substantial list of challenges they have faced in their schooling lives—first full cohort of prep students, the age cut-off changing to the middle of the year, the first in our state to have Grade 7 as the first year of high school, the first seniors in forty years to go through a complete education change with the introduction of the ATAR score instead of an OP, and of course, to top it off, to be completing their schooling year amongst the turmoil of a pandemic.

One of the addresses we heard was from the school Principal who talked about the word ‘antifragile’. What a great word! It’s close to resilience in meaning but goes one step further. The antifragile concept has been developed by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, Antifragile, and refers to things that get stronger under stress, shocks, and failures. In the absence of a word that is the direct opposite of fragile, Professor Taleb coined the word antifragile. Resilience is about the ability to withstand stress, while antifragile is about actually growing and thriving during stress and adversity.

There is not one person who hasn’t been affected by the year we’ve had. And we’ve each responded and reacted to our own individual stressors differently. There is a popular picture that depicts boats of various sizes on an ocean of huge waves with a stormy sky overhead. The picture has been used as an example of how we all have different circumstances and resources available to us that affect our ability to weather storms, such as the pandemic.

Not all of us will come out the other side of the current global circumstances with an equal amount of resilience or antifragility. Depending on our supports, our resources, our ability to meet the challenges we’ve all faced this year will be different. As always, we need to be mindful of others’ capacity to adapt and navigate the storms, and remind ourselves that some are in small row boats while others are steering ocean liners.

As we come to the end of what has been the longest, strangest 12 months in our living memory, we can be encouraged that we can learn from 2020, we can thrive and we can actually grow (even if it’s incrementally!) not just in spite of, but because of, this challenging year. 

Let’s make this Christmas a fitting end to this year. Let’s love more, regret less, and embrace the season for what it is and always will be—one of hope, peace and promise for greater things ahead.

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