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Sinéad Burke

Time to Refresh

_STYLE / Editor-at-large letter

A couple of years ago, I had a jar that hibernated in the corner of my room. It was an old jar, one that once housed jam and even though I tried my best to scrub it clean, remnants of the label were still attached. It was an object you’d glance past, but it held treasure. Throughout the year, if something positive happened, I scrawled it on a piece of paper and tucked it inside the jar. In January, I was diligent and dedicated to the process, tearing scraps of paper from notebooks, the ends of receipts, anything that was in reach that I could write on.

Before I started the project, I thought I’d only acknowledge the ‘big’ moments. A grade in an assignment, a promotion at work, or writing a book. But, I mostly gravitated to document moments that were much more personal— times when my sister told me that she trusted me and wanted to confide in me; a moment when a friend told me that I had made their day brighter; an interaction with a stranger who thanked me when I offered to help. They weren’t parts of the day that I could easily quantify but they shaped me.

As summer moved to fall, my dedication to the scrawled notes dwindled. I made excuses for not acknowledging those moments. I was too busy.

But as December faded into January, I spent days sifting through the jar, reminding myself of the good experiences and people I witnessed that year. It centered me, replenished my energy and gave me a new focus for the year.

The jar still sits in my room and the notes within it have aged, but the practice of acknowledging the moments that nourish me is something I try to do each month, each week and each day. At the beginning of a new year, I want to invite you to think about the moments and conversations that in recent months have shaped you.

What encouraged you to keep going? Who reminded you that you are enough just as you are? What were the terrible jokes that made you laugh? What were the words that lifted your mood, spirit and soul?

What did you do to lighten someone else’s burden? How did you choose words to transform a person’s outlook? When did you make a difference?

Last year was one that we could have never predicted. There was so much loss, distance and turmoil. Our perspective was opaque, our anxiety was immeasurable, but because of kindness, vulnerability and maybe even technology, connection was still possible.

Beginning a new year, reflecting on the one that has just passed sets up a blueprint for what you want in the months ahead. This year, my mantra is an adage that’s often tied to Maya Angelou, but I don’t think she actually said it… even though it’s smart and right: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How will you design your world?

Sinéad Burke
Editor at large

Sinéad Burke is a teacher, writer and advocate. Sinéad works towards accelerating systemic change within the domains of diversity, education, inclusion, design and disability. She consults within the fashion and design industries to ensure that spaces and products are accessible to all.

Sinéad is a TED speaker, her talk ‘Why Design Should Include Everyone’ has amassed over one million views and resulted in her achieving some ‘firsts’: Sinéad is responsible for the introduction of the term for little person, ‘duine beag’, into the Irish language, she was the first little person to attend the Met Gala, and is the first little person to feature on the cover of Vogue. Sinéad has addressed the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference and the World Economic Forum too. Sinéad was presented with The Leadership Award at EcoAge’s Green Carpet Fashion Awards by Gucci CEO, Marco Bizzarri and by appointment of President Michael D. Higgins, Sinéad is a member of Ireland’s Council of State.


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