It’s never ceases to amaze me how opportunities to reflect upon our own development unexpectedly present themselves, and how like a good detective story they lead us from clue to clue until we find that nugget of inspiration that reveals the truth. As Margaret and I put up the Christmas decorations today the festive excitement grows as we take our favourite baubles from the decorations box carefully placing them on the Christmas tree. We like to acquire a special new bauble every year, it has become a bit of an annual tradition. I reach into the box and pull out a ceramic yellow New York taxicab from which Santa and Rudolf wave a joyful Merry Christmas. This was the start of the reflective process. As I hold the heavy bauble in my hand I’m immediately taken back to 2014 when I bought it in a Christmas store near Grand Central Station in New York to both mark the occasion and add to our bauble collection. I was there with a colleague presenting our research at a prestigious academic conference on transformative learning. I hand the bauble to Margaret and she places it on a sturdy branch near the base of the tree and I can’t help contemplating how important and pivotal the conference had been in my academic development.
The tree decorated, garlands attached to the oak beams above and a couple of glasses of mulled wine later and I look appreciatively on our festive scene. The bright yellow taxicab stands out from the contrasting reds and greens of the tree and so starts the next stage of reflective activity. I fire up the laptop and click through the New York photo album. Over two hundred thought provoking images later and one simple image stands out above all others demanding attention. The above picture was taken outside a café on Broadway having just given our conference presentation. I remember feeling completely elated, excited and exhausted. Whilst I truly enjoy telling the research story and sharing ideas, it takes a lot of effort and energy to justify your research methodology and theoretical standpoint. Now as I look at the simple picture the old proverbial phrase “is the glass half empty or half full?” springs to mind, which is generally used rhetorically to identify a pessimistic or an optimistic standpoint or as a test to determine a person’s worldview. In the academic element of my work I still find myself having to justify and categorise, analyse and evaluate my theoretical perspective and worldview.
Taking stock of the last three years of intense research I still find the storytelling and sharing of ideas intensely satisfying and yet the constant justification tiresome and exhausting. Is that optimistic, pessimistic or both? In 2014 I would have been consumed by the need to put myself in one box or the other and laboured long and hard over the dilemma. Today I am more inclined to be concerned with what is in the glass than in measuring how full or empty it is. On final reflection the most important thing to me now is the quality of my experiences, the celebration of living in the moment and the confidence that when I’ve consumed the delicious experience I can simply pour myself another one. Perhaps like the wine I have matured over the last three years. So I raise another glass of mulled wine and toast the little yellow taxicab in appreciation of this reflective opportunity, and wish you all a merry and reflective Christmas.