I can’t believe it’s the end of the semester. The expression ‘haven’t seen the time pass’ doesn’t half cover it. It’s whizzed by at the speed of light and learning. Being so suddenly busy and engaged and physically among people, after two years isolating in a country barn, contributes to a sense of speed and specialness. I feel myself gripping on, almost nostalgically, to a year that is flying by on steroids. I want to slow it down and smell the blossoms that are erupting in a cacophony of pastels across Cambridge. But time ticks on.
If I think time is going fast, the companies, cases and trends that we covered in my Managing the Future of Work class showed a world being blown apart by a multitude of trends sweeping through. Chris Stanton, who taught it, got a standing ovation on Friday. He bravely conducted a hair-raising ride through a swelling of discordant notes: demographics and digitalisation, gig workers and Universal Basic Income (UBI), AI and hybrid workforces, crowdsourcing and globalisation of talent, demographics and ageing employees, public policy pacing and private sector innovations… opportunities for some, dislocation for more. The companies featured, or who appeared as guests in the classroom, are as confused about what’s coming as the rest of us. Covid was a huge accelerator of a whole series of existing signals, kicked into overdrive by a bug. Changes that would have taken years happened in a matter of weeks. There is no clarity, only experimentation and preparation. Hang on to your hats!
That’s a bit how our year feels. So much is going into my head and heart that it feels near to bursting. Last night, a group of us went to hear the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra play Mahler’s 7th Symphony in the beautiful old Sanders Theatre. Referred to as his “Song of the night,” the music was a good metaphor of how many of us are feeling – a mixed mash-up of modernist musings trending towards chaos. With a hint of cowbells (literally) reminding us of a past life of slower pastures.
With my colleague Bernard Franklin, I decided to try to get a grip of the high-speed beast. Every Tuesday evening, we’ve organised what we’re calling ‘Deep Digestion’ sessions. We invite 8-10 people from our cohort to spend a quiet evening discussing - and listening - to what we are all experiencing, how we are feeling and what we’re taking from it all. A chance to breathe, slow down and share the journey around a glass of wine. We are all in the midst of fascinating transitions – personal, professional, intellectual - sometimes spiritual. Comparing notes makes us feel a little less wired. It’s not just me! Everyone is experiencing a degree of overwhelm and confusion. It’s reassuring and calming to acknowledge that. I continue to discover more about a very impressive group of people – from scientists who’ve discovered some of the world’s rare curative gene therapies, to negotiators who signed nuclear non-proliferation treaties, to the impact a programme like this has not only on us as individuals - but also on our couples.
In conclusion, I need a holiday! Today, I’m not even going to yoga. The coach I had a meeting with this week was shaking her head as she listened to all the different things I was up to – and planning. As a coach myself, I know that’s probably not a good sign. I’m looking forward to this summer to iron out all my ideas and initiatives into some kind of coherent whole. That may be a tall order, as the summer has its own agenda: getting to know Boston and visiting some of New England. Having some holiday time with both kids who will be visiting. And settling my mother in as she returns home… tomorrow!
Husband Tim has himself become a maestro. In the past month, he’s orchestrated the retooling of my mother’s home, shopped for all kinds of entirely new equipment I never knew existed a few months ago (from hospital beds and hoists to wheelchairs), recruited live-in carers, and generally jollied my mother into looking forward to yet another transition – this time back home. It’s slightly miraculous. That she has recovered (she’s even been kicked out of palliative care). And that her son-in-law has made it all so smooth. She is blessed to have him. So am I. My gratitude knows no bounds. If it weren’t for him, I would have had to drop out. Instead, the family will be gathering in the home I grew up in next June 7th. We’ll be celebrating my mother’s 97th birthday.
Such is life. It speeds forward - and takes its sweet time. A paradox we may struggle to cope with. Most of us will live longer than we think. What will we do with all that time?
But first, what will you do with your summer?