• Ian McClellan

Week 40 (part 2): On Optimism.

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

For several decades, the beginning of September hasn’t meant much in my life. A recovery weekend after Reading or Leeds festival. A late-Summer beach break before the holiday-free stretch to Christmas. The anticipation and hope of a new football season.

It has suddenly all changed, and if you are a parent who is seeing their son or daughter off to school this week or recently, then maybe you know what I mean. Today, we sent our 4-year old boy off to his first school, uniform and all.

No-one told me is was going to be like this. No hints have been strong enough. No-one explains exactly how you might feel, perhaps because everyone feels different things. There are metaphors, euphemisms, poems, deflective jokes. For me, and for the last few days - I’ve felt really, really sad.

I’ve felt sad when I imagine our boy in the lunch queue, standing on his own and trying to figure it all out for the first time. I feel anxious for him to find a seat with new friends in the classroom, or at break time to be able to join in games. I hope we have loved him enough to make him independent and confident, but at the same time I can’t bear to let go of him at the gates. I’ll miss his little voice in the next room and the silly afternoons we have spent over this very, very strange 2020. I just want to hold onto him a little bit longer.

The rational parts of my brain tell me there is no reason for this sadness, and that what lies ahead of him is so very cool and exciting. But I’ve not needed solutions, or explanations and frankly didn’t want to listen to them. There has been nothing particularly complicated about the sadness, I’ve just needed to embrace it, explore the feeling and wallow in it a little bit. I’ve read a little bit about other’s experiences, and have stared out of the window. I’ve taken lots of mental photographs to remember my feeling of resistance for the days when he doesn’t want to get out of bed or when he refuses to do his homework. I want to remember this so I can try and understand his point of view.

I am also optimistic, because when I get past the sadness I have so many other feelings of pride, anticipation, excitement for him. I want to choose these feelings, and this is what optimism is.

Optimism is understanding that everything ahead is not going to be perfect, because life rarely is. We always hope it will be, but optimism is not hope, because hope has no action. Optimism is choosing positive thinking over negative thinking, and seeing past the sadness at the opportunities about what lies ahead. About accepting there will be many things to work out, many hurdles to overcome. He will be nervous, but this will help to teach him resilience. He will need to find friends, but this will grow him emotionally. Optimism is about actively seeking out these imperfections, finding lessons in them, and discovering ways through them together.

By choosing optimism, I can see positivity everywhere. The staff at our schools, who spend their days and lives giving themselves to our children’s futures without us have ever asked them to make that choice. The wonder and mind-blowing excitement of finding new stuff out for the first time. The joy of making friends, and then having the excuse the hang out with them every weekday, all day. The new stories around the table at teatime, new family routines and traditions, new ways that we can help him continue to have a happy soul and a bright future.

On optimism, I also wanted to shine a light on another inspiration.

For those of you who have been following the planetwise diary this year, I thank you all for following me so far, and if you’re reading this for the first time then it’s great to have you here on this page. Those who are regulars will have seen in previous weeks that alongside the written posts, we have also been creating a podcast of each entry.

The voice on these readings is LJ, who is the daughter of a good friend. LJ volunteered to get involved in Project Planetwise, in part as a way to use the time we have all had over 2020 in a productive way. LJ is ten-and-a-half years-old, and the quality of her work already shows that she is a professional. She reads beautifully, and is an inspiration. Every generation has it’s challenges, but a common ground is that it is not easy being a young person in any world and at any time.

Growing up, we often do not allow ourselves or each other to do be just that, ourselves. To listen to LJ on the Planetwise Pod and on her new series ‘Grace Jeffries meets…’ (you can find this on Spotify and your other preferred podcast providers) …. is to listen to someone who is curious about the world, and uses that curiosity to create. We need creators in the world, and having LJ help with this project is one of the great things about living. You never know who you are going to meet, and it keeps you optimistic not just about being planetwise, but about life.

You can search for the Planetwise Pod on your preferred podcast provider, or please listen below to the first episode. There are 26 more published, so please follow us and explore. If you find a favourite, please share the optimism and the positivity.

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