Usually, I find it pretty easy to write an opinion piece for a school newsletter. I’ve been doing it for so many years now that I can generally find something topical to present to the school community without too much effort. However; this week for the first time in a long career I am really struggling.
What do you write about when we have already had five weeks of lockdown and we have at least another four to go, when parents are stuck at home with a house full of kids who need supervision whilst trying to manage to get their own work done, when Year 12 students are concerned about their Trial exams and HSC exams, when many businesses are closed down and experiencing serious financial impact, when each time you go to the shops to buy essential items you may become a close or casual contact and have to isolate for 14 days, when each day the COVID cases keep climbing, when we can’t get out and socialise with family and friends, when our older kids lose a job and then can’t find another, when lonely grandparents can’t see family members…
Although very well intentioned I think we’ve all had enough of lockdown tips, platitudes, exercise plans, suggestions for how to stay motivated and feel good stories. We’ve all read these and know what we should be doing to get us through the next four weeks. But each of us is in a completely different situation and I think it is OK for some of us to say that this lockdown is really tough for us at the moment. Last week I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “If you’re feeling low, you’re not alone: Distress at record high in lockdowns”. So if you are feeling this way then you are certainly not alone.
I’ve been brought up in typical country fashion hearing the old adage “nobody likes a whinger”. However; I think there are times when it is OK to say when things are not OK. Far too often I think we have been conditioned to put on a brave face and say that everything is OK when really it is not. Sometimes we just feel better by saying “no I’m not OK”, or “I’ve had a shocking day” or “I’m really struggling with this” or “I need help”. Previously, I believe that we were hesitant to admit these things as it might be construed as a sign of weakness but now there is a growing realization that it is far healthier and more beneficial for us to share with others when things are not OK with us. Last week we had the example of the US Olympic gymnast, Simone Biles, who withdrew from the Olympics teams event publicly stating that she wasn’t doing OK. I think when elite athletes who are role models for us all can admit when things are not OK for them it gives us all the courage to follow suit when necessary.
So, I want to acknowledge that the current COVID situation and lockdown extension is tough for families and we should not underestimate the impact it is having on many lives. I hope that you are all going OK, or as OK as is possible at the moment, but if you are struggling then please reach out to each other and know that every so often it is OK to have a whinge amongst friends and to ask for help! Sometimes we just feel better by the simple act of being able to vent and let out our frustrations.
I know that I now feel better having written this piece which has allowed me to release some of my angst.
Take care, look after yourselves and reach out to one another for support.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Hemphill is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.