For as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something amazing: something that I would always be remembered for. I wanted my name to be recalled with admiration long after I was gone. I wanted my children to be proud of their Mom. I wanted to feel proud of myself.
I chose a profession in education: a place where it is easy to make a difference – if you want to – every single day. For most of my career, I worked in adult education; adult literacy, to be exact. One would think that working with adults who are learning to read and to write would be about as fulfilling a career as one could aspire to. Instead, I worked far, far in the background: writing and overseeing grant proposals for our annual funding; preparing action plans and strategic plans for the government to approve and therefore allow us to keep doing what we were doing for another year; training the teachers who would actually get to teach an adult how to read for the first time, as well as teaching them the myriad life skills that the statistical majority of us take for granted: skills that feel like a mountain to the adult learner who is absorbing them for the first time.
Year after year, maintaining gainful employment relied solely on how well I did in writing those grant proposals. Every year at grant-writing time, my adrenals went into overdrive as I did back flips to ensure funding not just for the school boards I was working for, but also to ensure that I got paid: that I would be able to continue putting bread on the table for me and for my kids. Ironically, it wouldn’t be the precarious nature of that work that would do me in, but rather, the politics of the place I was working in when they finally noticed me – 25 years after I had started working there – and hired me to work for them. Office politics are not for the faint of heart.
Because of a truly epic burnout (adrenal exhaustion), my retirement five years later was a dismal little blip on a rather vanilla-flavoured radar. Oh, I know I made a quiet difference to the amazing people I got to work with over the twenty-five years that I worked in the field of adult education, just as they made a difference for me. But as I sat weakly recuperating in a chair in my living room for a full year after I retired at the unthinkable age of 53; as I watched myself being very easily replaced from afar; as I came to the conclusion that absolutely no one is irreplaceable, my ego took its final blow and toppled heavily into the chasm it should have stayed in, in the first place.
It’s been seven years since my body decided it had had enough. I’ve had a lot of time to think about my life goals. And about ‘making a difference’. I still do what I can, especially for the environment, which has always been an issue that mattered to me. But just like my career, anything I am doing for the environment is but a blip on the radar (that’s okay; I do it anyway).
Besides helping my sister take care of our ailing Mom, I also knit toques and neck warmers for local schools (proudly featured above). They are cute little things, if not haute couture, and I am glad to know that if a child came to school one day without their hat, or worse, if they didn’t have one to wear, I have made a definite difference in their day, even if they don’t know my name or that some white-haired lady in the community made it ‘just for them’.
Recently, a friend in the community wrote to me to tell me that something I wrote on my blog made a difference for them; they told me that I had ‘put into words’ exactly how they were feeling. They thanked me for my encouragement. I will never be able to adequately express how wonderful that made me feel, or just what those words meant to me.
I will shortly be 61. And I have accepted that I am not going to be famous. My name is not going to be remembered long after I am gone.
But every day that I quietly make a small difference in my tiny little world is enough for me, now…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com
AND… A FEW PREVIOUS POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO CHECK OUT…
- My Search for Mindfulness: Learning to be in the Moment (Originally posted on August 10,2018)
- Swimming Hole, Part Two (Originally posted on February 11, 2018)
- I’ve Got This (originally posted on April 23, 2018)