Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Through the Kaleidoscope

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My daughter walked into Hamley’s on Regent street while we were in London and was looking for a train I had promised her. Train wasn’t there. It was just a memory from my own childhood when I visited Hamley’s with my parents. So I looked for a small cheap toy to distract her with, and found two things that were small and became really valuable throughout our trip. One was an elastic lego-like thingie that you could bend into many shapes (yay for creativity) and one was a small kaleidoscope. I loved kaleidoscopes as a kid. But what surprised me about what my daughter did is that she kept looking through the kaleidoscope, fascinated with the changing shapes and colors, and completely ignored the entire Hamely’s store. It was ridiculously funny, that she was right there in the midst of all these toys, and she wanted to look through the kaleidoscope, which she could take home with her and use any time. But it worked for her that day, and in the end, it helped us buy fewer things, which is always good news, really 🙂

I kind of think my trip to Manchester was a bit like that. I was only there for a few days and I had a purpose. Connect physically with some long-time friends, and share some of the joy and thrill of that with others. I didn’t really get to see Manchester at all. There were art galleries and beautiful libraries nearby, and I usually love these things, but between finding time to meet different people and caring for a child and for my husband and I to keep track of each other and make sure our girl also had a good time… We didn’t have time to see any of it.

For me, the beautiful kaleidoscope involved seeing the different ways my daughter would interact with my friends each time she saw them. For me, the kaleidoscope was the thrill of being in physical proximity to people I had loved, admired and/or respected from afar, some for more than a year.

So I didn’t see all of Manchester (or really, not much at all). So I didn’t see all there was to see of the #altc conference. Pfft. It wasn’t what I needed at the time.

Did I miss out on some f2f when I did virtually connecting? A little. But I was still f2f with the people onsite I was hanging out with, and I was giving other virtuals what I had been receiving via other onsite buddies doing virtually connecting for months now. I would be the most selfish person in the world, if after months of being virtual on virtually connecting, I didn’t do the onsite buddy thing when I had the privilege to be onsite. Maybe I overdid it, but I enjoyed every minute, including the technical troubleshooting. You have to be really almost constantly distant like me, away from all the onsite frenzy, to appreciate the virtually connecting experience, and I have seen people who are quite connected onsite who appreciate it, too, for different reasons.

That’s my kaleidoscope, and it’s also my horizon. Maybe it was limited. But it made me (and some other people, too) happy at the time. And that matters.

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