Chance and change

I don’t know what you’ve been like, but this second lockdown and home schooling seemed to eat up every spare moment of mine, and it’s been a while since I had time to write a blog. However, as the days get longer, (slightly) warmer and restrictions begin to ease, change is definitely in the air.

So, what are you looking forward to most? Perhaps it’s seeing more of your family, getting a haircut, or it’s making a trip to the pub that holds the most appeal?

Personally, I have found that life at home has become just a bit too planned. I can order what I need online, when I need it. I walk the same route almost every day with the kids, wearing a repeating cycle of the same old, comfortable clothes.

As time available for relaxing in front of the TV became so limited with full time work and home-schooling, I started to only watch television on demand, avoiding even the intrusion of adverts. A born timetabler, routine was easy to establish, even when work was at its most demanding. But methinks even I have reached my limit.

I have realised that what I miss most is randomness. The small pleasure in finding a bargain, or perhaps a new product in the shops that I have never tried before. The unexpected learning from a conversation with a stranger at a bus stop, or whilst waiting for a meeting to start. The odd joy of getting lost (this happens to me regularly), and finding a new route, new village or just a new view.

In 2015, Max Hawkins realised he had become trapped by his routine. He decided to mix his life up a bit, and started to let randomized computer programs decide where he was going to live for the next month, and what he was going to do when he got there[1]. Although I don’t think I am at that stage just yet, Max reported finding fulfilment in a multitude of unexpected ways when he escaped “the dictatorship of his own preferences”. Which really got me thinking.

Uncertainty is scary in volatile times. Our climate, both literally and figuratively, seems to move from one extreme to the next. Fear of making the wrong choice or decision can make us reluctant to try anything new. And more than ever before, it can be easy to see every stranger or change in our environment as a threat. Not least because in the last year, they have been. We have been living and working in small bubbles, both physical and virtual, with news sites using our viewing history to filter what we see, creating echo chambers of our interests and networks. Streaming updates and information with an increasing limited scope, ever-decreasing our circle of comfort.

And how rapidly this has happened. In just a year, I have gone from travelling the length and breadth of the country on a weekly basis, to only meeting new people on my ‘home turf’ through a computer screen. This is indeed comfortable, but it isn’t healthy, and whilst the kids certainly mix things up a bit, it has become rather dull. 

Like many others, I have no intention of returning to the office full time, but I do want to increase my exposure to ‘the new’. I want to get back to connecting with new people, and in new environments, but I don’t want to fall back into the old ways of working, when there is so much potential for a better balance. The future is of course uncertain, and I think it is natural to feel both anticipation for increased freedoms, and anxious about the consequences.

I take inspiration from the applications we have been receiving for the Women in Agriculture and Women in the Rural Economy training funds. They have been incredibly diverse, both in course type and business sector, but all from incredible women taking their first brave new steps into the unknown. Either developing themselves to prepare for a new opportunity, or learning skills that will allow them to radically reshape their business. Many have faced significant challenges or barriers to undertaking such training in the past and are an inspiration to us all. 

For me though, baby steps. I might not be leaving decisions to chance or an algorithm, but I’m boxing up the lockdown clothes and changing the route for the daily walk. I am re-examining old structures and switching off the sat nav (but still taking it with me though!). Whilst there are undoubtedly difficult days ahead, and everyone is going to be embracing the next normal with varying levels of enthusiasm, there is opportunity too, for new learning, approaches and connections. So let’s embrace the random as we (gradually) start to break with the routine.