As Bob Dylan sang, “I shall be released” – and, on 30 October 2021, we were! So what happens now?
Bob Dylan wrote the song “I shall be released” in 1967. We will all have our own interpretations of art, music, literature, and song, but I see it as a song about a vision of the contrast between potential opportunities of achievement and opportunity, and the plight of people who are powerless, and have no right of reply, intervention, or control over their destiny.
For me, as possibly for many others, the last 20 months have felt exactly like this. Over the course of the Melbourne Cup weekend, I know I did truly feel released! It was wonderful to go out to lunch or dinner, see friends or relatives and re-experience many other, almost forgotten, freedoms. These are things we have earnt through an incredible commitment and persistence as Melburnians and Victorians.
While I hope we all had the opportunity to experience that release by going camping, swimming at the beach, visiting relatives, or just going out to lunch or dinner, I know we had members of our community who were not able to do this because of the need to isolate as a primary close-contact, because there is a vulnerable person in their household, because they are not able to be vaccinated, or for many other reasons. I feel deeply for these people who cannot enjoy what the rest of us can.
So, what will be the forward view? It is clear that in the first half of next year (virus mutations and social upheaval aside) we will move to a 2022 version of a ‘normal‘ life. The feeling of release will continue as interstate and international travel resumes, at school we will resume excursions, camps, overseas tours, and experiences, and we will enjoy gatherings on campus of our whole community. But what will we take from these most remarkable two years?
When I was 13, I had a very bad skateboard accident. I fell off travelling down a steep hill at high speed and lost a great deal of skin (the consequence of a classic adolescent lack of planning!). My father (a doctor) was caring and kind, but also pragmatic. His view was that nothing happens without consequence, and that as a result of those consequences, one’s life changed. Not always for the best, but there was almost always a positive contained in what followed.
As I write this, I look at the scar on my left arm that I have to this day. My arm is not the same, it is changed forever – really neither worse nor better, but different. I learnt a lot that day, it made me a wiser person, and a changed one – both physically and mentally – and possibly a slightly more evolved one.
I am certain that as parents, most of us will feel loss and/or regret for our, and our children’s, missed or lessened experiences of 2020 and 2021. We will hope our children have not been limited by the effects of something outside of our control (every parent’s nightmare, I think). This is understandable, and while there will be short-term gaps and lost opportunities that will be progressively addressed and regained over coming months and years, there have also been remarkable realisations of the independence, autonomy, and capability of young people. This is particularly true for us at the School in the sudden and significant realisation of the capabilities of young people that we would not have been privileged to witness, if they were in a classroom and COVID-19 had not occurred.
I suspect that if we look closely at our experiences (and those of our children) in so many cases, we have indeed ‘been released’!
Factis non verbis