On the perfect balance, or ‘Summery Summary’

Thursday 25th August, 2011

Nearly three months and no blogging. It’s been good to have that break, but September is drawing ever nearer, my big summer plans have all been fulfilled, and it’s time to take stock of what all that was about. Looking back at these last few months, it seems to me that there’s one very clear recurring theme: balance.

Probably the most significant moment this summer was my great grandad’s death at the end of July. More important than the death itself, though, was that it happened the night before we were due to celebrate his 90th birthday. That coincidence meant that all four generations of his family were able to gather from three countries in two continents and see him one last time. That day, and the weekend after when we gathered for the funeral, demonstrated to me more clearly than ever the strong family values that my great grandparents have been able to instil in their descendants. The funeral service itself didn’t feel sad; the atmosphere was one of optimism, celebration, and often humour. A lot of hope and happiness came out of what on the surface was a bad situation.

A huge chunk of my summer has been spent volunteering at arts festivals. 374 hours and 45 minutes, to be precise. I’ve been an extra in a live and immersive Doctor Who episode at Manchester International Festival; I’ve managed a sometimes hectic Manchester Jazz Festival box office; I’ve helped the Gruffalo onto stage for his dance off with Elmer at the second annual Just So Festival, and I’ve done a whole lot more. The decision to do all that hard work while my bank balance gradually dropped will seem foolish to some – myself included during some of my less exciting volunteering episodes – but if it’s made me more employable then it was the right decision. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve been appreciated, trusted and helped by the people I’ve worked for; I’ve worked long hours, but I’ve had a lot of fun; I’ve worked for no money, but I feel significantly more prepared for a proper job than I was three months ago.

When Manchester, like other UK cities, was hit by riots on the night of 9th August, I felt disappointed. I was annoyed at myself, even, thinking I was naive to have had so much faith in Manchester and to have given so much of my time to two of its biggest festivals. I wasn’t naive, though, because the subsequent wave of defiant, proud hope completely trumped the disappointment I had felt. The crowds of volunteers clearing up the streets the next morning; the ‘We Love MCR’ campaign that has culminated in today’s celebrations – these events are proof of what Manchester really is, really means, is really capable of.

I can identify that same sense of balance in each of these areas – my family, my career (-to-be), and the way I relate to this city – and I think there’s something in that. In our roles as relatives, employees, students and citizens, it’s a valuable thing to a) be able to see the good in the bad and b) to see potential for good and play our part in making it happen. It seems a bit lofty to claim that this summer has changed my life, but I really do feel enlightened to some degree. Balance is good.

Click to see the 'tagged' version on Facebook

Summer summarised by scrapbook-style souvenirs


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