Speakers’ Corner – Back for the Future

‘Why don’t you listen to the podcast?’ I laughed, adding, ‘there’s not much hope for your mum and me if we can’t get our daughter to subscribe.’

            ‘Dad,’ chuckled Izzy, ‘you’re too nostalgic, no one wants to look back all the time.  You need to look forward.’

            It was cutting, with an intent that only family can utter.  It wasn’t cruel or intended to be hurtful, but it made me think to the core.  I thought of the last few episodes of Speakers’ Corner, and she was right: I do linger in the past.  It must be my age.  Passing sixty has made me reflect.

            And figuring out what to discuss this week, I’ve found it impossible not to look back again. Our discussion with Angie Holmes veered me off into my youth.  Reconnecting with Angie and others has reminded me of a vibrant time in my life and made me reconsider some of my life choices.  As an eighteen-year-old, I attended teacher training college because I wanted to play rugby and cricket full-time.  I had no ambition or vision to be an educator.   And when injury made that impossible, I was only too willing to change tack and embark on another university course and, ultimately a career in food manufacturing.  I reasoned that I was never cut out to be a teacher, I had too much drive and desire for a dynamic and fast-moving environment.  It fitted my sense of competitiveness and achievement.  It was naive then, and now, it sounds ignorant.

            Meeting friends from those days (more nostalgia, Izzy) has made me realise that my old friends have been successful in a diverse, challenging, and exciting workplace.  They are all now at the age of retirement and have achieved much.  More importantly, they have been a positive influence on many lives.  They have created lasting memories in their students.  Angie Holmes told the podcast of a troublesome boy who shouted out in class in his first year.  She found it frustrating, and it took a while for her to influence the youngster to control his behaviour.  Then, years later, in a supermarket, the same lad, now a strapping young teenager, sidled up and gave her a hug.  I can’t imagine a swarthy fish filleter, abattoir worker or marketing manager coming up to me and offering a cuddle.  More like a stab in the back! 

However, the varied and different paths that friends have taken have impressed me.  One woman, whom I had a very secret crush on and even sent her a Valentine’s card in my first year, has risen through the ranks of university education and was honoured for her contribution.  Another friend who was a Mod with his scooter and parka was an unlikely-looking teacher as an eighteen-year-old.  He was carefree, a party animal and entertained the Hall of Residence with The Who blaring out from his room.  But I never saw the sensitive and caring teacher who dedicated his life to special needs and teaching within secure units for children.  Why didn’t I see that?  And what did they think of me at the time?  Did they see potential or just a Scottish piss artist who liked to drink and was permanently injured?  Of course, not all my fellow students went into a career in education, but they, too, have achieved success in their chosen careers.

It made me think about what are the ingredients for success.?  A positive attitude for a start.  Secondly, leadership skills.  My fellow students had these skills in abundance.  Even the drinking circles in the college bar were organised with military precision and efficiency. Also, they had a desire to be the best version of themselves, to strive to be better next time and learn from mistakes.  And those attributes were traits that I witnessed throughout my business life.

There’s nothing wrong with looking back; learning from the past can be good if experience offers suggestions for the future. Meeting up with my college friends has given me the opportunity to reevaluate aspects of my life.  These lessons can teach me how to behave in the here and now.  I’m striving to be a better version of myself but using the past as a guide. 

So, Izzy, not nostalgia but Back for the Future.