It’s fair to say that the last couple of months have been quite hard going. Finding out as late as we did that a benefactor had on reflection decided not to give the college the money that we had been banking on was quite a moment, swiftly followed by “that” report. . . you know. . . the one that we continue to contest as it’s so obviously cobbled together.

In many ways, it’s been like the most awful nightmare that a part of me still hopes that I’ll wake up from. You know when I tell my wife “you’ll never guess what I dreamt last night. . . I mean. . . as if both things would go tits up so late”.  Of course, I’m very well aware that I am extremely wide awake and The MTA closed a few weeks ago.

A few things have struck me during this time though. . .

1) As the head of an organisation I was haunted by the words that somebody once told me that it was my job to hold it all together for everybody else. Throughout my 14 years as “the boss” those words have loomed heavily in my subconscious, as every time an event happened, every time people around me were struggling, I held it together. Not because I’m afraid to show weakness. . . as close friends know I have zero issue at being perceived as “weak” and even more than that I see displaying vulnerability as a huge strength, but rather because I felt that it was an important part of my role to appear strong, to be the life raft if you like that everybody else could cling to. 

Of course the more people you’re trying to keep afloat the more you start to sink yourself, but history has taught me that I’m hugely resilient in moments of high stress, and somehow I’d always keep just above the water.

2) I’ve been very lucky to have received a huge amount of support from people around me.  I have a handful of lifelong friends that haven’t surprised me at all, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.  As somebody that really can’t handle compliments, it’s been a little overwhelming at times to take in the enormity of some of the things that have been shared with me. Here’s the thing though. . .isn’t it strange how you really clock the people that say nothing? Like, why is that even a thing? When discussing this with friends we all acknowledged that this is human nature, but isn’t it a weird one? 

So why do we concern ourselves about the radio silence? I guess that it’s that old imposter syndrome, you make up reasons as to why people haven’t commented, or question friendships because somebody hasn’t checked in. Of course in reality those people might not even know that your disaster has happened. Just because your world is consumed with it, judging by the number of emails I’ve had over the past week asking about available places or hustling for jobs, the majority of the world doesn’t even know that we closed. Or maybe they have other things going on that are consuming their every thought and they don’t have the capacity to check in on somebody else. After all. . . nobody died right? Or maybe as a few people have told me this week, they didn’t contact me sooner as they just didn’t know what to say?

In other words, there are a million reasons why people don’t check in with you, and the likelihood is, none of those reasons is about you. 

3) As I’ve been very vocal about holding a certain organisation to account over what I consider to be malpractice, it’s been really interesting watching the people that will publicly speak out about it. As I’ve previously noted my concern is not for The MTA but for the vocational training industry as a whole. IF my whistleblowers are correct there is much to be concerned about both over how we were treated, but also about the future of an organisation that literally holds the key to the gate of government funding. 

The number of messages I’ve received after reading the whistleblowers’ accounts exclaiming horror and incredulity of what they’ve read has been reassuring insomuch as I’ve not been making a mountain out of a molehill, yet what also comes back to me is the fear of people speaking out, either because they work for establishments that don’t want to rock the boat, or indeed they’re worried about their establishment being penalised for voicing a concern.

Which brings me back to a question that I asked on Twitter quite a while ago – why is it that some people will always speak out? Why do some people always see the bigger picture and feel compelled to fight for justice, or fight against injustice, whereas others shout very loudly in private, yet publicly toe the line and simply hope that change will miraculously happen? Maybe some people feel like their purpose in life is to cheerlead the people that do speak out, I really don’t know, but it’s interesting, right? 

In many ways I desperately wish that I could just leave things be, but no matter how hard I try to tell myself to just keep my head down and let somebody else fight that battle. . . I can’t. So however hard it is being the person that will always pop their head over the parapet (Mental Health crisis flagged back in 2014 anyone?), like a compulsion I will always do it. 

So here’s to all the people that speak out. . .know that you’re seen, and to all the people that say nothing, know that your silence is deafening