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An Ode to Resilience – Karyn McCluskey

BLOGS | 19th January 2018

I read Kim’s blog a few days ago, and I thought I would just write a small addition. Many will think it is neither here nor there, but comes back to the subject of resilience. I talk about resilience all the time, resilience in leadership, lack of resilience in many of our most traumatised citizens, the surprising level of resilience in so many of our citizens where we would expect there to be little…so I go on about it at length.

The day Kim went to her interview on that rainy day in late December, I phoned her, by chance. It was around 5pm and she was in Glasgow City Centre.

It was dark and she was alone and when she answered the phone all I could hear was deep, wracking sobs, the sound of absolute despair. The sobs came from the depth of her being.

Many of us will have experienced that sort of emotion in bereavement or the catastrophic events that can turn your life upside down. If you are reading this, and are taken back to that time in your own life, then you will know the sort of sobs I am referring to. It took 40 minutes to get what had happened out of her. I wondered how quickly I could drive from Edinburgh to Glasgow in rush hour to take her home, to comfort her, and the answer was too long. Kim doesn’t have the support networks that so many of us have and which wraps around us at these sort of times. It’s a lonely path that she is walking.

She wasn’t any better the next day, full of questions about when she will have repaid her debt; when she is allowed to move on; when is enough, enough? My platitudes about time, resilience and determination and that ‘her time will come’ were weak and no comfort at all – for in truth there are systemic and societal norms that are designed to keep Kim in stasis, doing nothing to really integrate her back into society and letting her participate fully. What a task that is – just imagine the weight of that on your shoulders, realising that to move forward there is a huge amount of things you have to shift at the same time. It’s like Sisyphus and the boulder

My blog isn’t really about all the things that should change or the transformation in society that is required. It’s about resilience, because three days later Kim had re-centred herself, picked herself up and refocused her attention on where she wanted to go.

There was no licking of wounds, feeling sorry for herself or bemoaning the inequality she finds herself at the mercy of.

This is what I want to write about.

The phenomenal levels of resilience that some people have, despite the best efforts of society to grind it down. If I could extract the essence of this from Kim and others, we could achieve anything, for she on her own has epitomised to me what resilience is, what drive looks like, what absolute determination looks like despite all the things designed to keep her where she is. She is back pushing the boulder up that hill, but now she has more people helping her push it. So thank you, all those out there that offered their support, changed their processes off the back of her blog, and promised themselves that they would help change it.

This is how transformation happens