Making a Difference

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.

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Things You Might Tell Your Younger Self if You Could Go Back

Source of image: LHSTODAY

  • Nothing is more important than figuring out – and dealing with – your own personal crap;
  • Your looks will only get you so far and they absolutely will not last. Focus one hundred times more on your inner beauty than on your outer beauty, because that is the beauty that will last;
Read more: Things You Might Tell Your Younger Self if You Could Go Back
  • Love people for who they are, and not for who you want them to be;
  • Buy second hand whenever you can. It’s good for your wallet and it’s way better for the planet;
  • With the above in mind, buy local, or if you cannot, buy items made in countries whose values align with your own;
  • Make ‘kind’ your default as often as you can;
  • Get your money out of RRSPs – and into a more spendable, less taxable, more easy-to-pass-on-to-your-kids format – while you still have a pulse (a banker gave me this advice);
  • You do not have to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. The new detergents work better if they have food enzymes to help them break down better. It’ll save you loads of time, reduce the cost of your water bill and it will be much better for the environment;
  • Grow something you will be able to eat;
  • Take good care of your things and try to fix them rather than replacing them, whenever you can;
  • You really don’t forgive for the other person. You forgive because it’s just too toxic for you to carry that anger around;
  • Whatever awful drama or tragedy you are going through, time will make a difference. Hang on…
  • If you have kids and you don’t have a will, get one done up. In many places, you can legally draw up your own will so it doesn’t even have to cost you all that much;
  • Re. the above: if you have specific wishes, write them down! Tell your loved ones where they can find that information. And review your own wishes periodically. You will be surprised how they change over time;
  • Also re. the above: make sure a person you trust has Power of Attorney over your finances and your health decisions, just in case the day comes when you are unable to make those decisions on your own;
  • Regardless of how important you think you are in a business or an organisation, you are easily replaceable (and soon forgotten). Almost everyone retires at some point. Whatever work you do, it may be the centre of your existence now, but the time will come when you are obsolete. Rare are the people who work until the day they die of old age. Make sure you have a real life to fall back on when you do retire (and start early if you can);
  • There is nothing – nothing – human about ‘human resources’. Never, ever forget: they are not there for you; they are there for the system;
  • Re. the above, systems are never there for you; they are there for themselves (and especially, for their bottom line). The best you can do is to be your own best advocate;
  • Breathe. And stop to just look around, as often as you can. Leave your phone at home from time to time. It’s really, really beautiful out there…
  • Living isn’t the point. Making a difference isn’t the point. Making your mark on the world isn’t the point. What did you learn? I think that is the point…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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AND… A FEW PREVIOUS POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO CHECK OUT…

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Source of image: https://www.aptntv.ca/ndtr/

In my country, Canada, today is the second official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

There were 140 federally-run residential schools all across Canada that operated between 1867 and 1996. The intent was to ‘teach the Indian out of the child’: complete assimilation, in other words. The children were forcibly removed from their homes. Their hair was cut; they were forbidden to speak their native tongue; they were forbidden to practice their spirituality and their traditions; they were not allowed to go home and they endured unimaginable abuse: either of neglect, physical and sexual abuse, or worse.

They were sent home when they were eighteen.

And many never made it home at all.

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Fight, Flight or Freeze?

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The world isn’t really built around the introverts.

We are quiet; we are shy. We think deeply but our thoughts rarely make their way unscathed, to our mouths. By the time it is our turn to speak, we have broken out into a cold sweat and everything we intended to say has come stuttering and stumbling from a tongue that has suddenly grown two sizes and is impossible not to trip over.

They don’t call it ‘tongue-tied’ for nothing.

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On Writing…With Confidence

Source of photo: P Moore Wilson

I recall with so much clarity the first writing contest I ever entered. I was in Grade 5 and I just knew that I was meant to be a writer. All my teachers said that I had talent. All my friends loved to hear my fanciful stories.

My entry was entitled To be There…and Back (and no, I had not yet read Lord of the Rings, or even The Hobbit, so I had not plagiarised the title, although plagiarism is nonetheless a theme of this post).

My story was about a little girl who gets pulled into the world of Mer People. She falls in love with a prince and has to choose between remaining a human but losing her one true love, or losing her legs forever and growing a fish tail, knowing she will ever be in physical pain because of her choice. Yes, I’m sure this must sound oddly familiar, although I swear my eleven-year-old plagiarism was purely unintentional. There were no Disney movies about little mermaids back in the early seventies when I wrote this story, but being an avid reader, I had indeed read – nay, devoured – Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (and pretty much everything else he wrote).

I didn’t win the contest of course, and when I saw the imaginative, clever titles of the stories that did win – ever so much better than my own – I resolved to put my dream of writing on the back burner and find another career path. The thing is, much of my career did involve writing: grant proposals, action plans, strategic plans, training manuals, etc. And I loved every second I was writing: even the technical stuff.

Having put my dream of becoming a ‘real writer’ firmly behind me all those years ago, becoming a blog writer wasn’t even something I had thought of. I have no idea what prompted me to start a blog back in early 2018. Once I did begin, however, I couldn’t have stopped writing if I wanted to: the stories simply poured out of me. I never did gain a huge readership but the people reading my entries encouraged me; gave me confidence; buoyed me up. And in return, I gained so much as I read their blog posts and connected with like-minded writers.

Eventually, I began shyly – proudly – referring to myself as ‘a writer’. I even printed up some little business cards (which all my family members have dutifully – and lovingly – put on their fridge doors). Honestly, I glowed with pride every time I published a new post.

There were a few challenges, of course. I tended to use a lot of adjectives. I always struggled with my titles. And my endings. I tried and tried, to absolutely no avail, to write fiction worthy of my favourite author, Stephen King. I reluctantly came to acknowledge that fiction will likely never be my ‘thing’. These weren’t so much obstacles, however, as fun puzzles to be solved. I was nonetheless writing. And oh, I was enjoying the process.

Then I committed the cardinal sin of any new writer. I started counting the ‘likes’ (or more accurately, the lack thereof). I started watching for my favourite bloggers’ comments – or wondering what their silence meant. I especially began noticing all the bloggers who were publishing their work. Worst of all, I met (gasp) a few published local writers. I read, with some awe, their books. With a growing sense of failure, I wondered why I hadn’t yet managed to do the same.

And suddenly, being a moderately successful blogger just didn’t seem ambitious enough.

For two years, I crept away from the blog I loved writing and I tried to be a ‘serious’ writer. For two years, I tried to write a ‘publishable book’. My computer files are now full of a great number of hopeful (but mediocre) starts under the sad heading of ‘potential books I hope to publish’. For two years, I became focussed on becoming ‘known as a writer’ rather than on just…writing. This is such a shame because the thing is: I truly love writing. Writing is my happy place. Writing is how I stay in touch with my spirit. Writing is how I figure life out.

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As usual, I struggled a lot with how best to end this. I knew that ‘ambition’ was the main theme. I knew I had let ambition rob me of something I love. I found it supremely ironic that this should happen to me, of all people, because I have never been particularly ambitious (driven to put food on the table, yes). But then I remembered that little girl who wrote a bad and inadvertently-plagiarised story of Mer People. And suddenly, I understood: that little girl was ambitious. She did intend to become a writer. But she let her first setback become not just an obstacle, but a wall.

She gave up before she had even left the starting block.

The nice thing about getting older is that you get to go back and take those earlier versions of yourself by the hand and lovingly guide them in a better direction. I am holding her hand now.

And we sit together at this computer screen, our fingers poised to just…write.

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

The Last Temper Tantrum

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My daughter was so quiet, in her first two years, that at one point a family member confided worriedly to me that she was afraid my daughter ‘didn’t understand French.’ I had done a lot of reading about children simultaneously learning two (or more) languages, and I knew – if this person didn’t – that my daughter understood what was going on around her, and very well, at that. “It will come”, I would tell the family member, with more confidence than I felt. “Some children are on a different timetable than others.” Continue reading “The Last Temper Tantrum”

My Search for Mindfulness: Learning to be in the Moment

Mindful

There is so much out there, these days, about being mindful; about being in the moment. There is even a Mindfulness for Dummies book (I confess that I have it on my bookshelf although I have yet to read it). Continue reading “My Search for Mindfulness: Learning to be in the Moment”