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The question of our lifetime
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The question of our lifetime
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The question of our lifetime
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
22 December 2021

The question of our lifetime

Writer Michelle Gardiner reflects on how the years of 2020/21 have shaped her, and invites us all to do the same.

Written by Michelle Gardiner

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Discussed in this Story

One day, you, I, we, will all be somewhere and the question of our lifetime will be asked: “Where were you in 2020/2021?”. We will all inherently understand the undercurrent that flows beneath the surface. Yes, there will be a collective story, and there will be a million fragments of stories that we each call our own.

It’s the kind of question that will be thrown in the mix of conversation at a table on a Friday night or while lying on the grass on a Sunday afternoon after a barbecue. The kind of conversation that organically flows when we are merely hanging about, enjoying life and not overcomplicating our existence.

My story involves being an Australian living in Bali. I was one of the “ones who got stuck here”, although I have long moved past the idea that I am in any way stuck. On a good day, I am living life. On a more complicated day, I am reminded of how far away and inaccessible Australian soil is.

I left Melbourne in late January 2020 to explore the space between the ending of one chapter of life and the beginning of another. Bali was the first landing place on my adventure that I thought may last six months and take me across the southern route of the Silk Road. As I arrived in Ubud, Bali, a little voice told me that I was home. Convinced that I was going to travel, my loose plans came to a halt before they really begun.

I left Melbourne with a rising fascination in Indigenous wisdom and women’s work, and for finding ways that fused my previous social work career, eclectic mix of side projects and studies to nourish myself and make change in the world that I felt expanded on my previous work.

Early on in Bali life, I shared a lot about my brand new and almost accidental jungle home, however these days it is more symbolic of everyday life. What I will share, is that the Bali of 2020 and 2021 is not the place that Australian holidaymakers would be able to easily recognise. With over 80 percent of Bali’s economy relying on tourism, and very little alternative financial support, Bali is not only an extremely quiet place, it has also faced an extreme shock and many hardships.

In social work, we know all too well that it is the crisis points, often fed by friction and resistance, that not only unveil what was never really working, but open up spaces where better concepts and ways of existing are explored.

It is in the times where we cannot easily make meaning that the innate nature of the human spirit is given the opportunity to truly rise to the surface. I once read that we often focus our energy on mental (ill)health and happiness at two opposing ends of a pendulum, but we miss the fact that resilience is one of many undercurrents that flows beneath the continuum of our lives and helps us to navigate these points of change.

Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. A huge part of Frankl’s work was around how we create personal choice, purpose and meaning within our experiences when they are not easy to exist within.

And so, I find myself, like many of us, redefining my own role within the context of the current collective narrative.

In 2009, the Dalai Lama said that the world would be changed by the Western woman. The essential addition to this story is that she would first meet the Eastern or Indigenous woman. Where the Western woman has much easier access to influence and the capacity to create rapid change, she would best create the change required through drawing on and honouring the wisdom that could only be understood by Indigenous people.

As I consider this, I am reminded of a comment made to me early in my social work career by a supervisor. She told me that Aboriginal people held answers that our mainstream sectors need in order to truly progress. It recently dawned on me that it will take more than my lifetime to integrate these worlds.

I feel that it is the time where these shifts are beginning to happen and that women will position themselves to lead, and to use their voice with more impact than we have previously seen. I also believe that the space is opening for this to occur in ways that honour women’s innate wisdom and intuition.

In every moment, each and every one of us are making choices and decisions that will become our next narrative, and we each have the opportunity to be a vessel for a cause and to stand for a message that matters far beyond our own existence.

Regardless of who we are in the world, or the path we have walked, we each have the capacity to exist with a gentle footprint, that makes a bold impact. The business manager can lead and “hold space” for their employees in a way that encourages opportunity, support and creates a culture of possibility and the recovery of trauma, just as readily as the entrepreneur can create socially conscious systems and employ those who may not otherwise have opportunities.

And this can occur just as women with completely different worldviews come together and share all that they are and wish to be in the world. These same women can influence and create the spaces, communities and opportunities that they would like to see for the younger women who role model them.

One day, when you are asked about that time, back when the world broke down and cracked open, what story will you tell about who you were and what it made you become?

 

 

 

 

Michelle Gardiner

Michelle Gardiner, an Australian currently living in Bali, is the Founder and Director of The Aspire Series, a global platform for women who are leading social impact and change.

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