Once upon a time, when I wrote blogs, this was all I had. My world was a lot smaller, and considerably less interesting. It was important to make myself feel that The Future would be more and that I was capable of reaching it. Having now got to a space where things are hard to keep up with because so much goes on? Time to look back. Sometimes, I can be overcritical of my capability, or lack of it.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with my youngest. They will be 18 in March. What they said to me was incredibly, massively significant. I covered the acceptance of this pretty well, but it was the equivalent of having a sizeable stone dropped into my small pond of existence at some height. Everything in the ecosystem has been disturbed. The look and feel of that space has changed too, in some places for good.
As a result, I’d like to talk today about why it really, REALLY matters to thank people.
I could have easily written this and made it into a Work Thing, but it’s becoming increasingly important to delineate between ‘time you enjoy’ and ‘time for business.’ If you’re lucky like me, work is fun most of the time anyway because you are doing things that are enjoyable. The distinction for me is when work becomes personal, and people I meet stop being colleagues and maybe become friends in my profession.
I’ve spent the last nine weeks listening to people who are far better communicators than me explain how to do that better. That’s what poetry is, when all is said and done. These are my stories, let me tell them to you, just with a better structure than just words on a page. The three poets I studied have lives I can only imagine and understand because of their skill in that ability to communicate. That’s a big deal.
One lost a leg to cancer, one moved from town to countryside and never went back, the last is a domestic abuse survivor. These are all pieces of vast, complex mental and physical stories that reviewers/publishers/publicity ultimately distil or mould as they feel fit to attract an audience. When you hear people read and talk about their work, all this falls away. It is just people, telling stories.
I fucking LOVE listening to people willing to share their lives both freely and willingly.
In such sympathetic environments, and assuming everyone is willing, strange things can and do happen. You become more than yourself. Truths you have kept silent, often for decades, will finally emerge. The people who listen know what they hear is private and important, and crucially they respect both you and the space in which it has happened. That’s why it is so important to mark these moments, and thank people not just for allowing you the space, but for their respect and understanding in doing so.
My youngest thanked me yesterday. They’ve done so countless times before, it was the why that altered so much. In the last nine weeks, it was that WHY that has changed my world view, the question that is lost in webinars and large group work or when you find yourself in a space where people don’t hold the same political or religious views that you do. Many people need this to stay safe. I find it restrictive.
I understand only too well why people need to only have two sexes as the norm, why being conservative is how they maintain a sense of equilibrium and focus. That’s the world I came from and never felt comfortable in. It’s a world I walk into on a regular basis to interact with others, seeking out those who only visit those spaces too. None of us live there. It’s increasingly unsafe and difficult to do so.
Today, if someone has complimented your work or made you think about yourself, please consider thanking them. This is not a star-based rating, not as a way of pointing out that a need to highlight them. Anyone with basic media training knows the placed compliment, the staged affirmation, the organized endorsement. Asking for a compliment or a retweet is never the way you should ever go.
Instead, tell people the truth. I LOVED working with all the people in my writing group, all of them so very different and brilliant, and all with stories. BOY, the stories. I don’t get to share them either. That’s their job, but I REALLY hope some of them do, because such fucking CRACKERS, insight and vulnerability and total, UTTER class. Again, massive thanks to Wendy for facilitating it all. You’re the best :D
TL;DR? If someone gives you a safe space to grow as an adult? THANK THEM.