Head Lines: Winter 2020

Dear York House Families,

Like many others, it is at this time that I find myself reflecting on the highlights of the year that was and looking forward to new beginnings in the year ahead. As a second language educator, I have always been fascinated with the evolving nature of language. Language isn’t set in stone. It changes all the time and in turn, it changes us. 

If we pressed the rewind button on 2020, such words as, “COVID”, “unprecedented” and “challenges” certainly would be key words we heard repeatedly. Interestingly, linguistic creativity tends to manifest itself in times of crisis and this global pandemic is no different. Prior to March of 2019, few of us had heard such terms as “self-isolating”, “new normal” or “covidiot” in our daily lives. And as our interactions moved online for work, for learning or for connecting with others, such metaphors as “zoombombing” and “quaranteams” (online teams created during lockdown) became mainstream language. Surely, the most ubiquitous phrase expressed in various languages throughout the world in the virtual sphere must have been, “You’re on mute!”. How many times have you said it in the past 10 months?

Indeed words are powerful and the lexical innovation we have seen in the past few months points to the fact that in times of crisis, we all seek to find meaning. Language and in particular, words, have a way of reshaping not only our ways of thinking and communicating but also enable us to reshape our ways of engaging with the world and with each other.

Which brings me to the word, “joy”. At first glance, this simple three letter word seems self- explanatory. Surely we have all experienced joy and surely we all seek more of it especially now, as we head into the holidays after what has been an “unprecedented and challenging” year. No doubt, many of us need a little more joy in our lives right about now. Which leads me to contemplate the difference between joy and happiness. 

Interestingly, there are various perspectives on the matter. One perspective is that happiness depends on external factors to exist. In short, happiness happens to us. For example, even though we may seek it, desire it, pursue it, etc., feeling happiness is not a choice we make. Joy, on the other hand, is a choice purposefully made. Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit, present inside of us as an untapped reservoir of potential. In essence, it is possible to feel joy in difficult times. Joy can share its space with other emotions – sadness or anger. Happiness can’t.

Happiness is not typically present in darkness and difficulty. However, joy never leaves it. Joy might be considered as the foundation of our spirit; and if purposefully chosen despite significant difficulties, joy can bring peace and contentment to our lives. 

For this to happen, joy requires a connection. Often the connection is with other people, but it can also be with pets, with nature, with creativity, through activity or just simply through connection with oneself. It is in those times, that joy is present. In the moment. 

As we head into the holidays, it is my sincere hope that, despite COVID related health and safety restrictions on travel or our ability to reunite with family and friends, that we purposefully choose to experience joy. With joy there is hope. With joy, hardship and adversity offers growth and opportunity. As I reflect on the challenges faced in the past year, I choose to feel joy and gratitude for the immense leadership growth this global pandemic has provided me.

Finally, as a school, we have chosen to share with you, our expressions of joy in our very first virtual Celebration of Community. Despite the fact that we are not together physically to share in this moment, may these joyful performances lift your spirits as you head into the holidays. I wish to thank all of our dedicated faculty and staff for their incredible hard work, perseverance, and resilience. They certainly have earned a well deserved break.

I hope that your holiday provides you with an opportunity to spend quality time together as a family. May your holidays be filled with warmth, health, and joy.