1.50am on Saturday 22 August was a momentous occasion for me, as I crossed the threshold from the age of 49 to that of 50. I had been looking forward with great eagerness, anticipation and enthusiasm for weeks to that precise moment, as I awaited the descent of omniscience and wisdom, in a Damascene-like moment of enlightenment. That didn’t quite happen, but I expect that this is merely due to the global pandemic; it will all have been delayed in the post. Even the Tooth Fairy has had trouble delivering of late.
I have always found moving from one decade to the next a milestone of optimism. I loved turning 30, just about to take up my first school Deputy Head’s post, and very shortly (although I didn’t actually know it at that moment …) my first role as a school Principal. When I turned 40 – with 3 young children and leading a wonderfully successful school – we threw a glorious tea party for the entire school community and had cupcakes galore. My forties have been a decade of phenomenal career shift and global outreach, and I marvel at my good fortune (underpinned, I will point out, by resilience and hard work …) at being able to do what I do now, as a Board Chair, Education Advisor and Executive Coach, in an amazingly varied portfolio which continues to evolve.
Along the way, of course, I have learned that wisdom grows when we water its living roots, and look after ourselves and others. I have learned that knowledge – omniscient or otherwise – is a construct which we must keep interrogating. I have learned the joy of living with an authentic purpose and a sense of responsibility to the world, and I have learned the power of walking in other people’s shoes. I haven’t yet learned that I can’t change the world overnight, or even by next Tuesday, even though a wise coach once told me to remember that I wasn’t God. That was a little deflating to hear, but perhaps she was right. Maybe I will learn that next decade.
I turn 50 with a powerful belief in the children and young people of today, who are the future of the planet. I have a deeper commitment than ever before to the importance of learning and education in every corner of our lives, and I have more courage than ever to speak this truth. Being authentic, challenging, kind and impactful all matter hugely to me. Generating velocity for change in organisations, and empowering leaders, are outcomes of my work which bring me enormous satisfaction. ‘Onwards and upwards’ has long been my mantra; now I live this daily with ever greater joy.
Above all, I have an intense sense of gratitude for everything I have learned and experienced to date. So thank you, world, for giving me all these opportunities. Thank you to my parents, who have nurtured me, and who I know are deeply proud of me. Thank you to my husband for his stalwart support and belief in me over all these decades. Thank you to my children for the love they have brought me. And thank you to all my amazing friends, colleagues, wider family and my diverse group of acquaintances for your tolerance, good humour, friendship and encouragement.
So – now, on with the next 50 years …