2020 wasn’t meant to be this way. I have distinct memories of working in government when up-beat policy visions with ambitious names like Towards 2020 and 2020: A Forecast of our Future were being pumped out1. These reports all had a commonality in that 2020 was guaranteed to be great! As long as we did whatever the document was promoting, from its publish date to 2020, things would be brilliant.
We must have failed miserably because 2020 is a shit show. On this I think we can all agree.
It is within this environment, that today I celebrate(?) my 43rd birthday. Honestly though, I’m happy enough to simply celebrate being alive. There have been more worthy souls than I that have had the fortune that I’ve experienced to avoid the range of ways that 2020 is trying to rain death upon us.
Actually, that’s unfair to a poor defenceless year. 2020 has nothing against us specifically. Rather we are the architects of our own doom. Whether it be through improper health controls allowing coronavirus to gain a foothold in China, or countries demonstrating a lack of leadership and coordination to corral a community towards effective COVID-19 transmission prevention, or racist hatred leading to people being killed for the skin they’re born with, we have created this 2020. This is our reality - not the one that was promoted in the glossy policy brochures in 2003.
And I haven’t even mentioned climate change. That doozy is still out there and I don’t see our humanity rising to face that challenge in a coordinated way anytime soon. The worst is yet to come.
A good thing about the past year has been that I have figured out who I am. No more am I self-conscious about the person I am or the way I think and perceive the world. I’m sure this realisation comes to others sooner but for me it has been this 42nd year that has provided me with the answers to my own universe2. This discovery has unlocked confidence in my approach to the world around me. I’ve overcome most vestiges of introversion shyness (except phone calls, I still hate them). Now at 43 years old I feel fully-formed with the confidence to deal with and respond to things I understand, the wisdom to learn about things I don’t, and the confidence to defer to experts without fear of appearing incompetent.
In turning 43 it’s not about me anymore. More importantly I’ve got two kids - aged 8 and 4 - and they are growing into a world that needs changing. I’ve been unsuccessful in making that change happen. Life is a lottery and I didn’t win the “become a leader of a country” prize. Look at who did and it appears obvious that it often relies on luck ahead of competence, intelligence or desire.
So this final statement I address to my children, and all the others in generations younger than my own. I wish that when you reach your own 43rd birthdays that you have the opportunity to look over the history of your own lives and the society you’re in that you can see positive world change.
Just remember that as you’re working on all of your Towards 2050 vision statements, that it doesn’t mean shit if you don’t take the hard steps towards enacting the change. Learn from us.