A momentous day. The day President Trump left office and Joe Biden was inaugurated as 46th President of the United States.
“Don’t tell me things can’t change” Biden said. And they are going to need to, in the U.S. and the rest of the world. And things do change and have changed. In my lifetime, some things beyond recognition.
It has been a year of endings for many people across the world, in death through Covid and other conditions. I have lost two wonderful and dear friends of some thirty plus years to cancer in the last six months. This signifies the end of long and valued friendships. It also signifies the beginning of the end of expectations of future times together for us, but particularly for their loving partners who have to now change and adapt to life without them. And this is being mirrored within families and couples throughout the world.
Biden talked of boldness and it is boldness that is required as one steps into a new beginning. It is boldness that we in the UK shall need to rebuild businesses, relationships, partnerships within our borders and beyond. And personally, I do not doubt that we have the energy and grit to do this if we set our minds to it and don’t listen to too much pessimism or negativity.
I felt moved as I watched the inauguration. I love America and have visited many different states over the years. It is a beautiful diverse country of stunning landscapes and we have always been welcomed by warmth and hospitality wherever we went. It is a huge land mass to be ruled under one President and in the last week or two it has stood at the top of a precipice that looked almost like potential civil war. It struggles with its history of racism, of civil war, of how much or little to get involved in the business of other nations across the world.
But I would rather a strong America to be the main economic power in the world than I would China, with its lack of human rights. Sure, America gets much wrong, and has done, and has some history also of lawlessness, white supremacy and gun-toting groups. Nonetheless at its core it keeps pressing for democracy and liberty, and we all need to clean up our acts to ensure that democracy is not tainted by corrupt practices. Here as much as anywhere.
Beginnings require a significant shift in personal identity. Who was I, who am I now, who shall I become? This is as true of nations as it is of individuals. I have wished with all my heart that this kind of questioning could have been asked of us all here in recent months so that we could embrace some sense of who we want to be in the world in the future. Leaving the EU has been another ending and yet is also a beginning and we need to remember this. We can, surely, unite enough to work towards the rebuilding of our sense of self-respect, a sense of recognition that we can be a force for good in the world, the whole world and not just a part of it, and that this activity doesn’t just reside in government but requires a contribution from each of us to push through the struggles of Covid, Brexit, economic uncertainty and recession and come out the other side with a sense that we have done our best.
Unity doesn’t mean we all have to agree with one another. That would be both boring and unproductive. It would be unlikely to lead to any kind of creativity or innovation. But unity can mean being humble enough to know that one doesn’t have all the answers, so can listen to other ideas and accept that one might learn from them, and vice versa.
Speaking the truth, even if it doesn’t get the result one wants, helps formulate a new identity within a new beginning. It’s too easy to shelter behind a fib, hide away from speaking one’s truth or expressing one’s needs. I encourage you to consider how this manifests in your own life. Are you telling those you love how you feel? How you might feel lonely? How you need a helping hand, emotional or practical, to get through this pandemic? And are you watching out for others who may also be struggling?
We have experienced our own struggles here in the UK and we have watched the struggles of the US over the last four years and particularly in the last four weeks. Life is a struggle and it is full of endings and beginnings. So perhaps now is a good time for us to think about what that means for us in the next year or two.
For me, personally, this year is the year for me to try to write my novel, and so I have to restructure my life to give me time to plan, reflect, write and edit. It means a new beginning for me, as writing non-fiction, as my previous books have been, is very different from writing a novel and I haven’t a clue whether I am writing rubbish or something worth reading. And so I need to think of myself in a new light, as someone who could write a novel, accepting that it will be extremely hard work and a struggle, and will require me to develop new aspects of myself. And not lose sight, in the midst of that, that I have it in me to finish. And all this requires that I adjust my sense of self, my identity, in this new beginning.
I wish Biden the best of luck with the enormous challenge that he faces. I hope we can mirror some of the aspirations he expressed in his inauguration speech, to come together in honesty, ditch the lies, stop the manipulation of facts and work together to pull through the difficulties that face the world at the moment.
And for those of you facing new beginnings in your own lives I wish you also the boldness to step up to the challenge and to take care of yourself in the process.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if, at the end of 2021, we could look back on the year and see it as a time of transformation and feel that we did our best to turn our lives, and the lives of others, around for the better. Hopeless optimist? Or possible dream …?