Two blog posts in two days, unheard of for me, but there’s something on my mind and I can’t let it go.
Today I heard a conversation.
A woman was contrasting her job (serving food), with that of her husband’s (he was a headmaster). She said that out of the two of them, he went to university, so she would like her children to go too. The implication being that she would rather her children get a degree and have more opportunities than she did, (lest they wind up serving lunches).
She clarified that she knows it’s not a given that university is an indicator of a happy life, and was clear she wasn’t putting herself down, but it stirred up a lot of emotions in me.
I had an urge to talk to her more in depth, and passionately, about my views on the topic, but I don’t know her that well and I needed to get it straight in my head why I felt such a visceral need to talk to her.
I processed it on the walk home. It’s because I could see myself reflected in her words.
The regret of wasted potential, the desire for my children to be better than I am, to do better than I have.
Except I did go to university. Twice, and with excellent results.
Many years ago, I had a job that would be considered a profession.
Today I have a job serving lunches to small children (and looking after two children of my own, but that’s not paid, so my brain doesn’t allow me to count it as a job).
But how much of the job I do is a measure of my worth?
It was certainly easier to introduce myself to others when I had a job title that at least sounded impressive.
The woman before me today was a bright, energetic person. She’s a mother, and a wife and she likes to exercise. She’s always got good banter, and I look forward to seeing her.
She brings value to my day because she’s a pleasure to be around, and I’m certain she brings value to the many other people in her life.
During the pandemic we’ve seen that many of the jobs necessary for society to function are not necessarily the ones that earn the most money, have the most status or require the most education.
Some are, like a doctor or a nurse, or a scientist, and it’s these kinds of roles we often wish for our children. But if you asked the people doing those jobs if they could do them without the porters, the cleaning staff or the administrative staff, then I know what the answer would be.
If you asked a doctor if they thought they were worth more than their support staff, I also know what the answer would be (at least I hope I do).
Yet we continue to do ourselves a disservice in perpetuating this hierarchical thinking.
I continue to do myself a disservice.
As a society, we need to lose the idea that letters after your name signify your worth.
There are plenty of uneducated people with letters after their name, and there are plenty of educated people with none.
Education comes in many different forms, and it’s mostly found in life, not school.
I feel like I’ve only really started my education journey over the past couple of years, and the stuff I’m learning and the ways in which I’m learning it can’t be taught in standardised lessons.
Experience teaches us.
Most importantly (and I’m saying this to myself more than anyone), work should not define a person’s sense of self-worth.
My children aren’t ashamed of me when they see me scraping the plates at dinner time, so why should I find myself lacking? We are socialised, by high school, by consumer culture and by life, into thinking that people with certain jobs, authority, status or income are somehow better.
I’ve been really focused on wanting to be a good role model for my daughter lately. I’ve been worrying that because I’m not a professional woman that I am doing her a disservice in showing her what she could be.
But I think the real disservice, to her and to me, would be to not value who I am.
My daughter sees me writing every day. She’s not interested in reading any of it (she’s 10, and it’s only right that I cannot compete with the magic of Harry Potter), but she sees me doing what I love every day. Perhaps that is enough.
You see, this is my life. I am not a high-flying executive. I am not an academic. I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I am a dog lover. I love to write, to read and to walk. For some inexplicable reason, I love to do High Intensity Interval Training (I blame the endorphins).
I am me, and I am more than my education or my employment status.
There is plenty of value in my ordinary life.
There is plenty of value that I can bring to the lives of other people – ordinary people – who I encounter every day.
I just have to be brave enough to be myself on the outside. This blog is helping me do that.
One final thing I need to remember, is that most days will be pretty ordinary, and that’s ok too.
There’s plenty of value (and more than a little magic) to be found in the ordinary.