Changing Times and Women’s Marches

It’s the Women’s March day worldwide today. Theses marches were triggered by the inauguration, as President of the United States, of an over 40-year old white man. The norm for the greater majority of the past 241 years.

The major difference this time, is that the most underqualified male candidate ever, won over a superbly politically qualified woman.

Although other candidates in the past have been racists (hello slave owners!), misogynists and anti-gay men (e.g., President Obama only declared is support for same-sex marriage in 2012), this particular winning candidate enjoys fuelling hatred and violence against “others” in a way that weakens tolerance, collaboration, and understanding at all levels of society.

The Marches offer women (and the men who care for them) an opportunity to stand up and say, “we’ll fight for ourselves, our bodies, and our rights”.

This is nothing new, of course. I’ve always known, thanks to the stories in my family and my own experience, how different things were for women than men.

My paternal grandmother was forced by the church and her environment, to give birth to 21 children. Yes, twenty-one, this not a typo. She only learned to read and write in her fifties when her kids were all grown up.

She was forced again, by the state and the church, to take care of her violent and alcoholic ailing husband who had deserted her and her 12 living children. This, until he passed seven years later.

On the day my mom was born, neither her, nor her mom, had the right to vote in their home province. It would take another 5 years for that right to finally be bestowed.

Mom also had to leave school in the 6th grade to take care of her ailing mother, because that was what girls had to do in the late forties.

My aunt was raped and forced (should I mention the church again?) to carry to term her baby. All heart, her mom adopted the boy as her own, a pretty rare occurrence. Nonetheless, my aunt never recovered from the terrible way society viewed her.

Myself, I was followed, harassed and assaulted (I’ll leave the darkest parts for another day) and spent my whole working life being underestimated, patronized, and skipped over for opportunities and promotions.

In 2000, the avant-garde organisation I worked for did a salary review. The results gave me and my female colleague a lump sum of $21,000 to compensate for continuous, discriminatory under payment in salary.

I was 46 years old before I finally got to work for an organisation led by a woman. I had then been in the job market for 28 years. 28 years.

Through all of the memories of the past and the development of my personal situation, I never, ever thought that young women would still be fighting for themselves, their bodies, and their rights in 2017.

I am heartbroken.

All the talks, all the progress, all the advances (Canada now has a 50% female Cabinet for instance), mean so little in the end.

By the way this new President is normalized and presented by citizens and network media, the self-professed “greatest country in the world” (per Hillary Clinton, Barrack and Michelle Obama just a few months ago (!)) is telling women to go back to the kitchen, keep silent, condone sexual harassment and assault, and just smile and look pretty.

Marches like the ones of today, are loudly and clearly telling the world that engaged citizens will not stand for it.

So here’s hoping (once again) for a better future.

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Lessons Learned in 2016

2016 was a trying year for many of us. Below are the few lessons I learned along the way. Hoping they may serve as a helpful, cautionary tale.

I had known for a while that the job I was in since 2014 was somewhat stifling. I had read the very inspirational The Encore Career Handbook by Marci Alboher (highly recommended and the Kindle version now only CA$1.99), and was looking forward to developing new skills and restoring old ones.

My boss announced her retirement in January 2016. I was on the Alboher encouraged “let’s try to develop new skills” beat so I offered to do an interview with her reflecting on her career, and post it on the organisation’s internal blog. It was a lot of work (the transcription alone!), but also a lot of fun.

Lesson Learned

No matter how grey or dark things are, keep learning, keep looking, keep trying new things. It will feed your soul.

 

As time went on, I felt more and more desperate to get out of my job, so I applied to everything I could find (14 hiring processes in total) to get out of there.

I failed most exams and when I passed the exams, I failed the interview. It was a vicious circle, I was drained and probably didn’t show myself in the best light, then failed and was even more discouraged.

In early summer, I went through one relatively “fun” interview, where I had to prepare a 20 min. presentation on any subject I chose (hadn’t prepared anything that length in 2 decades!) and answer questions in front of a 4-people panel. I liked the thought of doing something different and had just read the book Deep Work by Cal Newton, so I enjoyed using his ideas as a stepping stone. Doing this through work and other hiring processes though, I missed some important information on the job poster and in failing one answer, I was sure I would not get the job.

Lesson Learned

Concentrate only on applying to the jobs you really want. You’ll have more energy to pass exams and interviews while continuing to meet your daily work commitments.

 

The more time passed, the more desperate and drained I got. I was also going through some difficult experiences with my elderly parents, and in addition to my demanding day job and perimenopause symptoms, I lost myself and fell into a deep depression.

I tried to arrange for a mix of vacation and sick leave with my boss but due to work deadlines, it didn’t pan out. I took some vacation time, but it just wasn’t enough to recover enough to even see what I needed (medication and therapy).

A close colleague told me I should just take sick leave to take care of myself, but all I could think of was that leaving at that point would make me look unprofessional and damaged and that I needed to stay to support my staff and my new boss. I categorically and forcefully told her that I would be fine.

Lessons Learned

If you see yourself telling someone you care about that they are wrong about what you need, please step back and look at your motivations, they may not be in YOUR best interest. You may not be doing was is best for YOU.

Like in an airplanes, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before even thinking of helping anyone else – not wanting to take time to care for yourself, maybe deep down thinking that you don’t deserve that care, is a sign that you need to get help, pronto.

 

I was told in early July that I had actually gotten the “presentation” job. Due to bureaucratic hurdles however, it would take many weeks for me to actually be able to leave my current job. The more time passed, the more drained I was. At one point, I couldn’t even tell if taking the job would be a good thing (I would be losing job security, union benefits, etc.). I just could not think straight and felt I was jumping into total unknown.

What got me to finally stop and get help? I went for a routine medical appointment and just broke down. Not sure what opened the gate, but it was a good thing. The thought that I would fail at the new job, being in such a bad place, opened me up to try anything to help.

Lessons Learned

Not taking care of yourself early on will only lead to a longer recovery.

Taking medication to improve your health is a good thing; there is absolutely no difference between a physical affliction or a mental one.

 

Where am I now?

I started the new job a few months ago and I love it. I fit in much better with the culture there (people actually talking to each other and having coffee and lunch together while working super hard towards the same goals). I also enjoy the work I do, as well as the opportunity I have to learn new things in brand new (and some old) subjects.

I’m still on medication, still in therapy and monitoring myself and my dark thoughts carefully. My recovery is slow and not at all linear, but I am progressing.

Lesson Learned

Jumping into the unknown can often be your only chance of survival.

The End (for now).