I've had a lot of 'life stuff' happening over the past year or so all culminating in me having to make some decisions about both my personal life and my business. What I was seeing on twitter and my interactions with other people, unbeknownst to them, actually help me clarify and mould my thoughts a lot more than many may have realised. Of particular note was the #CelebratingWomen tweets, which prompted me to say thank you to Dr Kirstin Ferguson for her initiative, though I realised my clumsy attempt (and I can’t just blame Twitter’s 140 characters) sounded rather incoherent and lame, hence the below open letter or sorts.
Before any bloke who happens to stumble across this personal reflection of mine stops reading coz it is about the laydeez, this has not been some sort of ‘feminazi’ – I so hate that word – initiative, just a wonderful celebration of a variety of women, succeeding in all sorts of fields, most who you may not have heard of. Snippets of their lives, how they got to this point in their life, and driving forces behind their passions.
For mine, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing these tweets fly through my timeline. These women have been from all over the world, often not famous, but legends in their own fields. Some have been younger with interesting backgrounds. Some have had interesting stories as to how they ended up where they are. From STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to Sport, Business & Boards, Nursing, Rural women, you name it, too many to list all the ‘types’ of success covered. For someone living in a regional area, it has opened up the world just a little bit more with images typifying that saying “If you can see it you can be it”.
I’m nearly 50, I’m also not the touchy feely inspirational type. I loathe those motivational quotes you see flying around. I’m a practical woman, more operational in nature, running a small business in a regional area. Like most in small business, we don’t have time to look outside our own box very often. The buck stops with you if you want to keep that roof over your head. So your life can become very insular. Being involved, even if vicariously, in initiatives like #CelebratingWomen on Social Media expands your world in a manner that is easily accessible.
Besides the ‘interest’ value, which, as a nosy bird, I find fascinating. The background story snippets will often make me smile as Kirstin presents these women in a human way, not a dry bio way and this is very important, well, important for me, it means, as a human (you don’t need to be female) I can often ‘relate’ to these women.
Now I’m not saying that seeing the success of all these women flying past on a daily basis makes me aspire to change careers. Though I’m sure for a lot of younger women it would inspire them to think a bit bigger and be a lot more aware of possibilities open to them. For me, it makes me feel part of something bigger.
When you live in a regional area, you have a lot of big fish in a little pond. I work long hours. So when I have a bit of spare time, I don’t want to spend it at networking nights or similar, where, to be frank, the so-called role models in our area are the ‘usual suspects’. I’m not disparaging all of course, we have some very worthy women in my area that deserve respect for being community & business leaders, though, they are the minority. Most are just self-serving attention seekers that ‘speak well’, attend every networking thing they can and pretty much are style over substance. Sooner or later they go bust, just to be replaced by the next blow in and the cycle continues.
This can leave me really frustrated, when I see these people in the paper or telly being lauded whilst our contribution to our region (a regional community portal) is ignored. BUT I can’t complain, as I’m not out there at all those meetings, shoving our face in front of council & local media, so I only have myself to blame for what we do being taken for granted. I’m not suddenly going to frock up and schmooze with the big fish in the little pond here, that’s just not the way I roll and therefore, it frustrates me even further, knowing that the little recognition for our years of ethical community work is my own fault.
#CelebratingWomen has really helped me combat those conflicting feelings.
I see certain people float through that may have had a similar beginning to myself and this makes me look at my past decisions made that changed the direction of my life and reflect on that. It may sound like a small thing, but it is really healthy thing to do. I don’t sit back and think, “OMG! I stuffed up, I could have been like that woman. “ I normally end up sitting back thinking, yes, that might have been nice, but, I would not have the lovely young woman I’m proud to call my daughter. So I feel more settled in those choices, not having regret.
Often I will see someone who works in a similar field to me and there will be particular attributes mentioned that I recognise in myself. This will make me sit up and take and notice. I can relate that to my own business and daily life, normally it is something that I just ‘do’, without thinking, and instead it is highlighted to me that what I have been doing is actually worthy of respect. As I mentioned earlier, I may not get the public attention for what I have worked hard at, and I’m never going to. I would feel like such a tosser tooting my own horn to all and sundry in a public sphere, but that is not what matters when you boil it down to cold hard reality. Being proud of yourself and your own achievements is what matters.
It is not always easy to look at yourself honestly. Admit your own faults, take responsibility for the decisions you have made that result in where you are now. But it is an invaluable and beneficial mental health exercise.
No-one is going to die pleased and proud of the fact they got mentioned in the local paper quite often. Hell, I don’t even like getting my photo taken (as you can tell from the deer in the spotlight rare photo above) so that was never going to happen LOL! Though it would be nice to die reflecting that you lived a good life, did right by other people and know in your own heart that you contributed to your wider community, even if in a small way.
All these women being celebrated have really helped me come to terms with who I am and how I got to be where I am at now. Some of those reflections have not been real pretty, but at the end of the day, I really appreciate the opportunity Dr Kirstin Ferguson inadvertently gave me to asses my life like this.
You know what? I’m pretty damn happy with myself.
I’m no longer resentful of others I don’t feel worthy of the attention they get, I no longer feel insulated and isolated in my working life. I no longer feel overwhelmed with the pressure of responsibility of running a family business.
Instead, I feel I work hard and I contribute to my community. I appreciate the life I have with good quality friendships, a mother I admire, a loving partner and a wonderful daughter. I may be turning 50 soon but I’m still curious and wanting to learn more. Most of all, when I look at my working life, I’ve not wasted it, I’ve learned from what I’ve done in the past. I can be proud that in my own business I’ve never wavered, not once, from the ethical principles I set out for myself when I first started. I’m true to myself, I treat others as I would like to be treated and – knock wood – I’m not about to fall off the perch soon, but even if I did, I could do so knowing I have lived a life that was not wasted.
I may be an ‘ordinary’ woman like millions of others around the world, though I no longer feel I’m just a speck in a universe who does not matter.
So thank you Kirstin, you have not only raised the profile of women with positive role models, you have also helped this daggy middle-aged bird in the regions feel she can also celebrate herself what she has achieved 😊
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