Jacinda Ardern: A decision well made

The news that Jacinda Ardern has resigned has shocked the world and despite not being a staunch follower of NZ politics I admit that my eyebrows rose this morning when I scrolled through my news feed. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/19/jacinda-ardern-resigns-as-prime-minister-of-new-zealand

It struck me as surprising as what I had previously read suggested that she was committed to politics, over and above everything else in her life.

When I read on, the narrative was clear and satisfactory,”she had nothing left in the tank”, and I  gave a small laugh;

Of course she hasn’t.. because you will become spent emotionally if you take on the world – which Jacinda did literally , just like millions of us do everyday.

We juggle running houses and kids and jobs -we run around making a life for our little ‘hell beasts’ in addition to trying to keep some of that life that we had, before they arrived. And it’s bloody hard. As Jacinda said we are all human- we can only do so much , for so long.

Like many I can relate to her words; I too am spent emotionally – at least I was until I made the decision to step back just before Christmas – to let someone else do the job that I have been doing for over 17 years now. At the point I made the decision , there were only dregs left in a tank that once had been full for teaching. I had gone back part-time after leaving a full time role after lockdown. The whole decision-making process was documented in New Beginnings.

So this is Part 2 I suppose ; (Perhaps its even what I wanted to do in Part 1) of how I left teaching which started, way back in 2016.

In New Zealand in 2016 Jacinda Ahern became Prime Minister.

She rose to the challenge, championed woman and for an end to poverty for children. She was strong in the face of her opposition and exuded energy and hopefulness.

I too had become a leader… not quite on the same level but I had become a course leader at an F.E College.

She was in charge of a country and Ministers and I was in charge of 68 NEET kids and a few not neat staff.

She championed womans rights , I championed the rights of the kids to an education, even if they weren’t really keen on having one.

She prevented 1000s of deaths from covid, I stopped tens of exclusions through being a bit more patient than I probably should have been.

She led courageously and with sincerity through terror incidents; I led with a certain amount of sincerity but mainly with humour as I managed facebook rows, broken lifts, kids on drugs and trips to the local fields to retrieve drunk teenagers.

She had a baby in the first year and I too had a baby- but thats where the similarities (ahem) end….

I went on maternity leave and decided not to go back to the role;  but to do something I believed would be less taxing; teaching permanently excluded Looked After Children in the community. I was a little bit wrong and spent the next two years in a constant state of anxiety. Despite really enjoying the relationship building and the small successes, working with children who are traumatised,  is hard work and as the adult, you carry all their scary feelings for them. All the time….especially when you chase them around a council estate because they don’t want to do fractions today. (For the record I didn’t want to do fractions either, so that actually worked out quite well for both of us)

Then came lockdown which Jacinda managed marvellously.

I  didn’t and decided I wasn’t going back. Ever .

Until I had no money and couldn’t find something that I felt I could do other than teach- so I chose the same role albeit in a smaller guise. Plus, doing the job that you have always done is comforting particularly when you can do it fairly well.  

Fundamentally I suppose I am good at it. I work well with the children and I understand them but …..

I looked around me at other teachers and was suddenly reminded of the energy that I once had, the energy that you need to do the job well to give those young people the absolute best chance in life. I am no longer consistent in that respect and that is why I had to step back. I don’t believe that I am devoid of energy, just devoid of energy for that role- for now.

So when Jacinda says that she spent the summer hoping to find the energy again – I get that.

I also searched myself during the summer months and I did find it , for a while. Until the circumstances of life outside of work trotted in. And they do that, circumstances; they pop by to remind you that there is stuff that exists outside your career that you need to attend to and I was stopped in my tracks.

I’ve been reading the commentary feeds on her departure and they are quite mixed in response. I was surprised at the negative statements- but I guess when you have a government like ours it’s only possible to see the positive in everyone else’s. I wasn’t surprised to see the other angle creep in – that there is some reason behind it all that we will be a party to at some point in the future. People grappling around for a slant on a reason that is quite straight forward in its origin.

Anticipating this suspicion, Jacinda has already stated that there is no other reason, other than to say she is ‘done’.

Now I am a trainee therapist. Believe me if there is an angle- I will find it- in everything

Analysis is second nature to me.

I just can’t see anything beyond what she has said today.

For me and maybe for Jacinda Ardern, the greatest moment in all this is realising that YOU know when it’s time to go. It’s not a decision that has been made by someone else but one that you have made by yourself because of your self-knowledge

there has already been a trickle of speculation of whats next for her. Again, her words made clear that of immediate importance to her was her family ,being with a child she has not experienced in her entirety and marrying her long term partner.

A friend said to me earlier that they were just taking one day at a time and if I may speculate about Jacindas immediate future that is probably what she is doing. Taking one day at a time

Not thinking too far ahead and certainly not seeing everything as a ‘forever’ choice or a

Forever

Behaviour

Feeling

Decision

Job

 if we are weighing things up, considering where to put our energy then , perhaps like Jacinda, it is best invested in the thing that will be with us forever.

And the only thing which falls into that category is our decision to have and raise a child.

Sometimes life really is that simple.

Everybody hates a tourist



On this beach of sand packed
tight, smooth as marble floor,
a spa touched now by masses of
uncertain feet carrying
bags, windbreaks, trolleys, mats, inflatables.
We stare at their arrival with a title
Dressed as an edgy absolution
for what will do for now, they say.

Here they still are- closer now
running in circles on the sand of
our forever green light;
our only first choice,
looking for our space taken by
the occupants of a staycation
as weeks,leak into months
where they make the best of it.

While with a stiff upper lip
we sit back and scowl.

Filling the Hole

I moved from Colchester to North Wales in 2004. Then we were two , myself and eldest; I was carrying ‘middlest’ at the time. It was a reluctant move which I framed as a stop gap where I would consider my choices. Colchester is my birthplace and is not far from where I grew up however, did not appear to offer anything outwardly. In contrast to Wales, where I had built a family and gained a degree, it appeared to offer nothing despite being closer to friends and family. There was vacancy in this transition, one I was unsure how to eliminate.

Life filled up quickly though. First ‘middlest’ was born and then came their schooling, employment as a local youth worker and involvement in a very supportive Sure Start led community. I grew a social life and from this sprouted friendships.

In my mind though, Colchester’s status remained the same. A stop gap.

One day, a couple of years after my move, I sat chatting with a good friend in my living room. They glanced at my wall and nodded in the direction of a map I had of Wales and another of my childhood home. “No Colchester? ” they asked. “No it’s temporary “ , I mused, without explanation or offering a potential future narrative.

Back then I would look forward to the time I wasn’t here. I would frequently take us away on breaks and day trips and on our way back it was always “better get back to Colchester then”. Never home.

Two years later, I relocated to where I live now. Still loosely referring to it as a filler, to everyone else, the move suggested something different – now married , with a permanent job , schools selected and friendships underscored, my life exuded stability. My choices said- this is home.

Privately though my view was the same, it was a stop gap. My mind would often drift to Cornwall or Cromer or Brighton, someplace with just good memories, a bit more surf and a little less concrete. I would make plans and look at letting and opportunity in that direction. One day these dreams drifted into conversation with another friend. I revealed to them my disappointment that I was still here after 15 years, that this was ever only meant to be a stop gap. Their shock at my confession was palpable – “You don’t seem this as your home? Why?!” I couldn’t actually answer at first.

I stopped and wondered openly about this need to separate myself from the town. Why did I resist saying it was my home? I recalled out loud how on occasion I had been repulsed by it even hated it. I said that it felt as if it belonged to everyone else , not me , describing places, specific roads and instances that fuelled the feeling. It slowly dawned upon me that experiences with people had coloured my perception of the place. My ability to synchronise with my environment , appeared to rest upon bad experiences and in particular, how I had received them.

Often when we have difficulties we project our feelings elsewhere, onto other people, situations at work or with friends We may take out our bad mood on someone else at work or take a negative experience at work, home. Similarly, places can become imbued with the characteristics or feelings generated there. So a town that is neutral might come to represent a series of difficult life events, rather than for what it is in the present.

I naturally pick things apart and in this conversation I realised the power of my defences. It’s easy to avoid yourself through dissociation than to face squarely, difficult feelings abut who you have been. It can make things easier in the short term. But there is a flip side -and that is in the long term, in doing this we deny things about ourselves and for ourselves. For me it appeared, that had included, denial of feeling where my home is.

A few weeks ago, I realised a huge shift had occurred. A picture had been posted on our neighbourhood , what’s app group. It depicted a sketch of the road drawn by a local artist.

A sketch of our road by Nicola Burrell

I realised a shift had occured when , Curled up on my sofa a picture of our street popped up on our street whats app group. I sat bolt upright and turned into the light to look more closely. Studying it closely I identified my house and then looked around the living room walls. Copying it to my photo album, I cropped it, then printed it off. The next day I put it in a frame on my wall.

Somewhere along the line , perhaps in the middle of all this craziness, Colchester had become my home.

What changed? Perhaps it was the many walks around Abbey Field or the long runs around the outskirts of town. Maybe it was the faces that became familiar , throughout the hours spent doing both. Or maybe it was the sense of community which emerged from lockdown on our little road. The sharing of food and plants, the socially distanced chats with people who I have lived alongside for years, yet never spoken too. Or maybe it was the sharing of many pictures of resident foxes throughout. Whatever the reason, I have realised that I am at a different point in my life now and I exist in a space which is overly familiar yet speaks to me in a different way. In relaxing my vision and focusing on what is rather than what was, I have not only changed my relationship with people around me but I have freed us up as a family.

The next day we head out of town and as we reach the end of another beach day , I get in the car. We chat and as I strap in smallest I ask, “where are we off to now buddy?”, and we look at each smile – in unison we both say “let’s go home”.