The Myth of 'Falling Behind'

February 18, 2022, 5:01 PM · Remember back at the start of lockdown in 2020, when many symphony orchestras and arts organizations announced they would simply delay their entire seasons for a year? At the time, that actually seemed pretty reasonable. With everything already planned in great detail, why not just slip straight back into it, a year later, when the world wakes up again and gets back to normal?

That's not exactly what happened. But for me, it certainly makes for an interesting metaphor for the larger situation we face now. We had all these goals, we still do. But we can't just slip back onto the old track.

two paths

What happened with our arts organizations? Well, things started coming together again, but in a very piecemeal fashion and with some pretty major restrictions at first. Concerts went online. In-person concerts had to start with smaller ensembles and audiences, with repertoire that would accommodate that. When it was possible to reschedule a previously planned program, often it still had to be changed -- a different soloist, or a different venue.

But let's face the facts: the old season never came back, and it isn't coming back. The plans went out the window and blew away. Likewise, with nearly everything else.

Every now and then, it still gets to me - all of those plans. Not just for symphony seasons - broken plans everywhere. Paths shut down. This pandemic took lives. It shut down businesses, cut off career paths. It kept children away from school, young adults away from college. It isolated us. The losses are real, far-reaching and hard to fathom.

So with things seemingly getting back to something that feels closer to "normal," what are our expectations for the future? How do we make up for lost time, for lost opportunities, for goals not accomplished? Are we still holding onto the idea of getting back on that path we'd planned before? Do we expect to put our children "back on track"?

First, it's important to stop shaking our fists at the road not taken - or rather, the road that vanished before we could take it. And if you are a parent, it is VERY important to stop shaking your fist at the road your child could not take. Dwelling on feelings of blame, anger, regret, or frustration (a.k.a. "b-a-r-f") will only cloud your vision and inhibit your ability to see the opportunities that are in front of you now.

See those opportunities, and take advantage of them. Allow yourself to move on, and model that kind of resiliency for your children (or students), even if it feels a little wobbly in yourself. They need to know that it is okay to let go and move on.

And what about the deficiencies left by the pandemic? The child who "fell behind"? I just have to ask, "behind" what? The very phrase "fell behind" sounds an awful lot like judgment. We need to re-cast that idea, with some mind to emboldening children to move forward without feeling like they are a lost cause before they get a chance to try.

Yes, if a child needs help learning to read, learning algebra, learning to perform, learning to interact with peers, then seek ways to provide that help through tutoring, practice, engagement. But let's do it with minimal judgment.

Meet them where they are, and move on from there with patience and kindness - maybe even enthusiasm. Likewise, with yourself.


February 19, 2022 at 12:14 AM · Very, very wise words, Laurie! And I think you need to copyright "b-a-r-f." The foursome of emotions that acronym captures truly will make a person sick.

February 19, 2022 at 12:42 AM · Totally agree with this whole concept. Thank you for posting. This comes at a time in my life where the advice truly helps me move on.

February 19, 2022 at 02:10 AM · Thanks, Laurie - brilliant article, including the accompanying photo!

February 19, 2022 at 06:36 AM · Having cats, I call it "ERP"... I clean it up from the floors every day. LOL. What you do is get two little bunches of paper towels, a wet bunch and a dry one. You get as much up ERP as you can with the dry one and then clean up the residue with the wet one, then go about your day until there is another pile of ERP to clean up. Some days there is more ERP, some less, and on rare fabulous days, none at all. I don't love my my cats any less for leaving me piles of ERP to clean up. They are my coworkers now, so its all about creating a space where we can co-exist in harmony

February 20, 2022 at 12:24 PM · I have faith that we're headed towards an equilibrium; such is nature's way. But, I don't think anyone knows what form that will take, and what effect it will have on musical arts. So, don't despair. Like what we're currently experiencing, rapids are traumatic; but, they eventually smooth out.

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