From Darkness to Belonging – Ben Brown
Life often presents us with unexpected challenges that can leave us feeling lost and disconnected. For me, that challenge was a battle with depression that confined me to my home for six long months. But within the depths of despair, I found a glimmer of hope—a purpose that would give me the strength to carry on and create a haven for others. This is the story of how kindness and belonging sparked my journey of recovery and connection.
As a teaching deputy head, I was overwhelmed by the weight of responsibilities. Juggling two roles, I struggled to find balance and support. The lack of available resources left me feeling isolated and without a safety net. Relationships that once provided comfort and guidance began to fade, leaving me disconnected and alone. I felt the strain on my personal and professional life, turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol that only deepened my sense of guilt and defeat.
The breaking point arrived abruptly, shattering my career and leaving me adrift in despair. But within that darkness, seeds of resilience and purpose began to take root. I explored different job opportunities outside of education, selling services online and encountering a world of high-powered executives seeking connection and understanding.
Witnessing the transformative power of connection at exclusive Roundtable events, I realized the universal need for a safe space where individuals could share their challenges and find solace and support. Inspired by this vision, I embarked on a mission to create Education Roundtables—a platform that was intended to foster empathy, understanding, and connection.
I faced obstacles along the way. School leaders are time-poor, and physical meetings proved impractical. Attempts to organize in-person events faltered as participants withdrew last minute, not recognizing the value I saw. Introducing virtual meetings through Zoom was met with resistance and hesitation in the face of new technologies.
But fate intervened in the form of a global pandemic. Suddenly, the world shifted towards virtual platforms, presenting an opportunity to bring my vision to life. The timing was serendipitous, and I adapted to suit the changing landscape. Even while the world around us was falling apart, I was hopeful.
I found unwavering support from remarkable head teachers. Despite my lack of experience, they embraced me as an equal, offering guidance and acceptance. They understood the challenges I faced and recognized the importance of connection and community in education. Their generosity and belief in my idea set the foundation for the success of Education Roundtables, attracting the participation of other educators and propelling the community forward.
The kindness and acceptance I still receive from these head teachers have transformed my perspective on the impact of human connection. It gives me a sense of belonging and purpose, fuelling my resilience during challenging times. Their support exemplifies the power of creating spaces where individuals can come together without judgment, fostering empathy and collaboration.
The community that they have built is a testament to the power of warmth, acceptance, and belief in the potential of every individual. Born from the kindness and generosity of head teachers, it continues to impact educators, providing them with a safe place to find solace, guidance, and the transformative power of human connection.
Through the darkest moments, I discovered that reaching out to others with kindness and empathy can make someone feel like they belong, are not alone, and have a purpose. This simple act of kindness sparked a journey of recovery and connection; without their kindness and continuing support, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
A kind word can be life-changing; the kind words of those I now work with certainly changed mine. It is now a world that I belong in.
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