I’m sitting in the sunshine by the Barbican lake. Over the day, I will be seeing a friend who I met in Shropshire, before I first came here in 2001; a friend who I met in Norway through Canadian study opportunities; and an American colleague who I am meeting for the first time today and I hope will become a friend.
Thoughts arise. I am incredibly lucky to have such fantastic people in my life, and I am very glad that I have taken the chances to meet them. We often say that some people “make friends easily”. Perhaps it is not easy, it just looks that way to those who are less familiar with the process. Now, I can play many piano pieces “easily” – but for a long time, until I acquired the technical skills and emotional understanding, they were difficult. I make friends more “easily” now than when I first came to the Barbican – also because I have acquired relevant skills and understanding. As an undergraduate student here over a decade ago, I found it very hard to mix and become friends with people who, on the whole, had very different backgrounds and personalities to me. In many ways, my time here was not a “success” (another word that is perhaps a misused as “easy”) but “failures” make us just as much as “successes”.
A Year 13 pupil said this week that she was nervous about leaving school “because so many people say it’s the best time of your life.” It certainly wasn’t for me, and I am increasingly reluctant to assume that my own pupils feel happy, nurtured, themselves in the school environment. Regardless of their school experiences, I doubt that many adults would wish to be 15 again! I am so pleased that I can say quite honestly that NOW is the best time of my life so far. It is not the life that I expected when I first drank tea in the Barbican Canteen, now called the Barbican Kitchen. Back then, I didn’t imagine that I’d be sat here in 2016, enjoying the same view and moaning about the change of cake supplier (who else remembers the Canteen brownies fondly? The new ones are ok, but not the same). I am not the same either, and it hasn’t been easy. But would life be so fantastic now if it were? I certainly wouldn’t advise a current school-leaver to take the most “difficult” routes, but do consider whether the “easiest” is necessarily the “best”.