by Jess Hill
As another year ends, I need to remind myself that nostalgia often distorts memory. We tend to head into the holidays reflecting on another year passed with sentimental feelings full of memories. We think of times when our children were younger and perhaps sweeter, when the grandparents were more energetic, when the world seemed more settled, or when life was better in some way. It seems that all of our memories and photos are tinged with the glow of nostalgia and time lost.
Pre-teens and teenagers have a tiny sense of this feeling when they delight in seeing pictures of themselves when they were toddlers or when they were starting their first day of kindergarten. But in general, our girls are hardwired to look forward and anticipate a better world to come. I love being surrounded by that excitement and curiosity in all things new and innovative. Beginning a new year is more hopeful when you work alongside a population of people with most of their scripts unwritten or even unimagined.
If nostalgia distorts memory in a positive way, then perhaps a lack of experience distorts our daughters’ views of the future in an optimistic way too. I hope to harness a bit of that energy and step into the new year with a lighter burden and a faded memory of things tried and failed. Clinical psychologist and author, Wendy Mogel, speaks about the challenges adults face in parenting and teaching during difficult times. She warns us about “adult cynicism.” She states, “It is important to give children a reason to want to grow up.” Cynicism can “rob young people of hope and confidence in the future.” Our students may lack the experience to put negative statements about the future and the world in a proper perspective.
We must also remember that as soon as we try to tell our girls about our own experiences in order to give them a leg up, they tune out. Lisa Damour, author of Untangled, reminds us that “Adolescents tend to tune out anything that comes after the five words, 'When I was a teenager'…". She continues, “Citing our own adolescence can be a conversation killer, since our kids often reject the premise that their teenage years have anything in common with ours.”
As educators, I am glad we can provide personal and gritty experiences for our girls outside of the traditional classroom through Winterim. These experiences belong to them and are not tied to us – they constitute the here and now. Discovering a new talent or interest in a unique hands-on class or through an internship, international exchange, or academic travel will bolster a wider perspective for our girls and give them a “reason to want to grow up.” These experiences help our girls develop their muscles of resilience and broaden their view of making their lives meaningful in the world.
When we approach 2019 as a project of possibility and learning, we embrace the opposite of cynicism. We turn from the melancholy yearn of yesterday to a fresh view of tomorrow.
"The best thing for being sad, replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn." - T.H. White, The Once and Future King
Here’s to a bright and happy new year to all of you!