They are words of warning recognised the world over, a literary conversation well known. If only Caesar had listened – if only we had listened:
Caesar. Ha! who calls?
Casca. Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
Caesar. Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer. Beware the ides of March.
Caesar. What man is that?
Brutus. A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Caesar. Set him before me; let me see his face.
Cassius. Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
Caesar. What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer. Beware the ides of March.
Caesar. He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
(Julius Caesar, Act 1 Scene 2 – William Shakespeare)
The first warnings came on December 31, 2019 when the WHO first reported the existence of a novel strain of Coronavirus, COVID-19 to be exact. Then came the next warning on January 30, 2020 when the WHO raised the volume of its warning, declaring the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global health emergency.
By March 11th classification was raised to ‘global pandemic’.
By the Ides of March, the world was shutting down – borders, skies, businesses, schools, centres of faith, our homes – we were told to close in, quickly, before this invisible curse now known as COVID-19 caught us out. Wave 1 had begun….
Now, one year on, echoes of those ominous warnings continue to be heard. March 11th, 2021 marked the end of a year that has been beyond anyone’s expectation and imaginations. Depending on where one was in the world, throughout March 2021, year one markings unfolded of lockdowns first imposed, the first time we got a sense that life as we once knew it was no more. March 23rd for we from the UK. By the final day in March 2021 the WHO’s freshly released report on the origins of COVID-19 is being rigorously reviewed and remarked upon.
In just one year this one virus has taken over 2.8 million lives, denied billions their basic liberties, and cost trillions in livelihoods. New strains are being discovered in tandem newly approved vaccine being rolled out. New waves are threatening. renewed strength is increasingly hard to find. In just one year one truth has emerged that everyone has had to face: there is no escaping the trauma of COVID-19, even if one escapes falling prey to the virus itself. Everyone has lost something, someone, somewhere. Everyone has suffered in some way. No one has been spared.
Unlike any crisis experienced in our generation, this pandemic has completely erased not just borders between nations, but so many lines we used to put in place in our individual lives:
- Office vs home,
- Day vs. night,
- Weekends vs weekdays,
- Business vs. pleasure,
- Professional vs. personal,
- On vs off.
Blur now exists where once there were lines, this blur an operating space that must be bravely navigated – destination unknown, duration unknown, all within a context of immense, intense trauma. Genuine trauma.
The trauma has been real. It has been prolonged. It has been profound. It has been personal. The blur has been accented by deep, undeniable, inescapable, and surprisingly, often very visible ache.
Tears have fallen uncontrollably.
Cracks have been revealed unexpectedly.
Fear has closed us in illogically.
Faith has been tested deeply.
Interestingly, this shared reality, this exposure, has afforded us the opportunity to turn trauma into a lifeline, forcing us all to come closer, to be more real, more human, more understanding and more compassionate with those around us. To encourage, without judgement or hesitation, others to reach out and grab hold.
Why? Simply this: the shared trauma we have all experienced has, while differing in individual situations, circumstances, characteristics and complexities, allowed us to care more – to care more honestly, more deeply and more transparently with those who truly provide us the focus, the purpose, the energy, and the hope we all need.
COVID-19 has been the most democratising challenge our world has ever faced.And uniting.
This pandemic has united us – all of us across the world, across the country, across the room – making vividly clear,:
- WE ARE ALL HUMAN – forced to dig deep each and every day with a stamina we have never demanded of ourselves, and others, before;
- WE ARE ALL HURTING – recognising that everyone is feeling pressure, feeling loss, feeling fear;
- WE ARE ALL EXHAUSTED – respecting that everyone is carrying a heavy load, needing rest, needing to feel safe;
- WE ARE ALL LONGING – knowing how we all ache to touch, to feel, to breathe, once more;
- WE ARE ALL BONDED – united in our refreshed awareness that we all need care, kindness, compassion and courage from one another.
For all of the uncertainty still facing us all, especially the layers of mental health, economic and societal crisis that will emerge, rapidly and painfully from COVID-19, reasons for hope still exist, hope we all need to hold onto, a lifeline pulling us all forward, whispering to us a reminder us that through tragedy can emerge tenderness, through trauma can emerge healing, through darkness can emerge the dawn.
The soothsayer somehow knew. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
The global hospitality community has always been one of exceptional leaders – people who have dedicated their lives to taking care of, protecting, serving, and celebrating others.
Why? Because hospitality has always been about welcoming people into one’s home, whether ‘home’ is a B&B, a major hotel, a resort, a private property, a boutique establishment or a shared space. Hospitality is ultimately about home. True hospitality leadership is, and always will be, about honouring this truth.
Just days ago the global travel community suffered an incredible loss. With great shock and sadness, news spread – news that caused us all to look twice, check sources, question its truth, and quietly pray it was not so. At a time of endless hardship, heartache and helplessness for millions across the globe, news of the passing of Arne Sorenson was haunting. Following a long period of struggle with pancreatic cancer it was his time to rest.
The news was something that no one was ready for because he was a man that no one in the international hospitality community was ready to let go. Immediately messages of grieving were passed around the world from community to community: across hospitality, across C-Suite peers, across friends. Shock and sadness eclipsed protocol and policy. Outreaches were in every direction as the hospitality community in every part of the world felt a sense of loss. Whether one had at one time shaken his hand, or simply heard of his life’s work, all were shaken.
Remarkable about Arne was not purely his example of excellence as the President and CEO of Marriott International – the company’s first leader not Marriott blood-family, but the way in which he created an international, thousands-strong family across Marriott. Surprisingly for many, the bonds of grief formed by his passing reached beyond the business to touch the wider global hospitality community, stretching to the highest levels, across colleagues and competitors alike. Spontaneous, unfiltered statements of sadness were penned by our industry’s elite, its elders, its everyman and everywoman. As divided as we have all been this past year – grounded as a result of borders, skies and doors being forced closed – and often working in parallel yet apart towards safe, secure, sustainable restart of our essential sector, news of the loss of a pillar of our community found us, in an instance, united.
In this moment of pause, prayer, for for many, pangs of loss, it feels a powerful message has been whispered, one that will hopefully be a part of the DNA of our shared Travel & Tourism future: future leadership is not purely about monitoring and managing the numbers, nor the traditional industry metrics. Leadership in the future is about protecting, promoting and passionately uniting those in the hospitality community – the visitors and the visited, the leaders and the loved ones – building meaningful, quantitatively and qualitatively measurable bonds through our life’s work in our essential industry, recognising that through these times of historical challenge, ‘essential’ has become an adjective to describe fundamental value and worth.
Whether hotel industry competitors, colleagues, former classmates or future confidantes, Arne inspired all in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality sector to recognise that, first and foremost, hospitality is about taking care of one. He bravely stood before the cameras in 2020’s early days of the pandemic to inspire courage, compassion, hope and unity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6af2lVfDDk.
Today, a year on, he has done it once more. https://twitter.com/marriottintl/status/1362920882990174209
Arne Sorenson has left a legacy of exemplary leadership not only as a hospitality professional and practitioner, but as a person. In leaving our community, he opened our shared community heart. He opened our ability to spontaneously reach out to one another and simply say, without agenda, without any intended outcome, “I’m sorry for your loss”. This has been, it feels, a parting gift, for at this time when our incredible industry continues to suffer inexplicable loss, the ability to look around and see who still cares, is invaluable.
Rest well, fine Sir. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
We’re almost there!!
With Out Of Office notifications now activated, menorahs being carefully packed away, wrapping paper being collected from the base of Christmas trees, another round of turkey sandwiches being prepared from feasty left-overs, and playful off-line pauses being enjoyed before countdowns begin towards New Year’s Eve, a new excitement is building – a feisty one.
The close of 2020 is soooo close!
The sleep-count is shrinking. A new wave is growing, one reaching millions across the globe. It’s not the latest COVID-19 wave, though sadly that too is also moving swiftly, widely, mercilessly once more, putting strain on global healthcare systems and frontliners – new strains starting to emerge and travel.
This particular wave is spreading through a hashtag: #FU2020. Quickly, with variations of cursing. The hashtag is sharing millions upon millions of reasons to raise a fist to the sky, and a glass at midnight on 31 12 2020, for all 2020 has been for us all. The editing filter has been dropped.
First articulation of frustration and fiery sentiment started to appear as our calendars reached the Winter Solstice of 2020: “The shortest day of the longest ____ year of our lives”, one posting read. There was something almost permission-granting about the overt admission of just how long, hard, and hope-challenging 2020 has been.
Growing momentum of growling is impossible to ignore. Humorous messages and memes capture all that has been missed out on this year, all across the world, the agnostic, aching nature of this unnatural year out there for all to see.
The bubbling anger, angst and anxiousness for 2020 to be ‘done’ is so very real, so raw. In the final seconds of 2020 countdown there will be, no doubt, swearing accompanying singing – laughter a needed release after long months needing to stay strong, stay hopeful, hold on. Sparks of the confidence and courage reignited to take us into 2021.
But please, please just stop – please don’t just rush into 2021.
Not just yet…not until the tears have been allowed to fall.
As tempting as it is to write off 2020, we can’t – our hearts might not be ready.
Midnight will come, and we will hopefully be together with loves ones – those we can within the rules and regulations. But before that moment happens, before looking forward, please just wait a moment.
Allow your heart to breathe, to feel the year now closing. To cry.
2020 has been redefining, rewiring, really, really hard. For everyone.
There is no competition: everyone has suffered, everyone is grieving in some way.
Loved ones, loved moments, livelihoods, chances of a lifetime,
No one has escaped 2020 unscathed:
Children or grown-ups,
Friends or foes,
Near or far,
Which is why before we raise our glasses to 2021 we need to let the 2020 tears fall.
Healthy tears – quiet, thoughtful, cleansing, healing tears.
Tears from as far back as the first months of 2020 when shock first hit, when we knew something was scary-wrong, when doors and borders and businesses and skies and hearts started to close.
Tears marking the changing of the seasons, all other signs of time passing feeling a blur.
Tears tightly holding in the emotions felt when bad news hit, and then hit again, and then hit again.
Tears of simply being tired, tired of the uncertainty, tired of the endlessness, tired of being tired.
The wounds of 2020 are deep, the scars will take decades to erase, if ever.
But the healing must start. Now. As our minds register the milestone of the close of 2020.
Now is a time for healing.
In time, at some point in time, our storytelling will select memories of this time, sifting through the hurt and heartache to find ways of creating a hopeful, helpful narrative. That time will come.
But for now, right here and right now is what matters.
May the gift you give yourself in the final hours of 2020 be the chance to allow those waiting-patiently tears to rise, be released, and quietly run down your cheek in a way that releases your heart of all of the holding-on that has been so needed each day of this year.
Whatever is ahead in 2021, 2020 will soon be done.
We’re almost there.
Make a wish….x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020