Happy birthday!

Posted: Wednesday 12th May 2021

How time can fly. This month marks a year since we began to write the MyST blog in 2020. When we noticed this anniversary arriving recently, we found ourselves in two minds about whether to note it. This dilemma had us thinking about a workshop a few months back when we joined with some colleagues across the pond in California. One of many of their suggestions was that when engaged in a long term venture it is good to celebrate milestones.  They thought that celebrations are important in order to acknowledge that every step matters and that our work warrants acknowledgement along the way and not only when we achieve our ultimate goal. Celebrations are also important because they help people to remain motivated, taking heart in a long game when their endeavours are sometimes met with setbacks on the path.

Despite these clear benefits of celebrations, we noticed something of a curdling feeling in our stomachs at the prospect. Yes, it’s ok for these ‘barefaced’ Americans to be at ease with this, but what about us Brits? Is there a difference of culture here? Celebrating milestones or achievements, through our eyes, can seem to risk being viewed as being self-congratulatory, arrogant, implying a sense of being better than someone else. Perhaps our more rigid class system is so strong in the British psyche that we are react negatively towards people who seem to be above their station by simply lauding their own achievements.

Is it possible to fit sensitively with our cultural backdrop and still celebrate milestones? If we don’t celebrate, might we all be missing out on something others from different cultures benefit from? Might we also be shy about encouraging our service users to allow themselves the benefits of celebrations if this is something that we are not comfortable about doing ourselves? Perhaps a greater ease with being celebratory might be an asset to the young people, siblings, parents, grandparents, foster carers, residential care workers and other fellow colleagues who are also working hard to progress in their particular ‘long games’ of change.

MyST itself is 17 years old this year, not a big birthday, not the youngest nor the oldest service, just somewhere in the middle. There’s nothing particularly special about being 17…, unless you happen to be 17. When you are 17, the joys and pains of being 17 do matter, and the 17-ness of you is perhaps worthy of some celebration.

Given the potential benefits of celebrations for all, could we British MyST workers take on board our Californian colleagues’ suggestion? We decided that we could dip our toe in, and have invited our teams to use a session to share stories of the impacts of their work upon children and families, with an invitation to think about what they might celebrate about these journeys of change. It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it goes. Until then, we’re also going to try a behavioural experiment here, we’re going to be both British and citizens of the world by drawing upon our inner Californians – Happy first birthday MyST blog. And to every one of you blog readers, congratulations for whatever calls for a nod of celebration in your world. Let’s raise a glass to everyone.

Jen & Jael

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