I’m not Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama but….
I may as well be after what my sister just told me!
My sister, Audrey, is the country sales manager for UPS Ireland. She is an inspirational woman in business who is celebrating International Women’s Day 2018 with a number of other inspirational women in business.
As International Women’s Day 2018 approached, she was asked to give a talk on the subject of inspirational women. She began her research on the inspirational women that meant something to her.
The two inspirational women she admired the most was the Queen of Inspiration, Oprah Winfrey, followed closely by Michelle Obama. She also looked at other inspirational women on the global stage. She picked the outstanding characteristics of each of these inspirational women. As she did this, she realised it formed a picture. That picture she said, was me!
When she rang me to tell me this, I cried uncontrollably. Thanking her in between snuffles and tears, I asked her why. I mean, it’s not something that we go around saying to one another, “oh by the way, you inspire me”. We don’t think of ourselves as inspirational to others. But in some way my sister found me inspiring.
She focused on one aspect of my life. My education. I didn’t see this as that big a deal. In my mind I was just doing the things I wanted to do. However, she seen it very differently and in doing so, has made me see differently.
She asked me to document the timeline of my education. She also asked me very specific questions. It was these questions that got me thinking.
My Education Story
When I was in school I loved learning. Even though I was part of the gang that liked to mess, I still devoured information. I’m not afraid to say that I also studied hard at home. Despite all this, I was still an average student.
I came from a disadvantaged area and a dysfunctional family. My parents weren’t educated. They both left school at 13. The idea of going to college within my family would have been met with as much enthusiasm as a cold bag of chips on a Saturday night.
My father couldn’t wait for us to finish school and get a job. Earn our keep so to speak. Money was a sign of your self-worth and my father had none. I don’t think he meant it in a bad way, he just wanted me to earn money, so I wouldn’t have to feel how he felt about himself.
In those days only a select few from my school went to college and an even smaller number from my area. College was an aspiration and only for the absolute brain boxes.
Even though the odds were stacked against me, I still had aspirations.
That dream was shattered however, when one day my geography teacher took me outside of class. She told me to give up any silly notion I had about going to college. It wasn’t for me. She said it wasn’t because I wasn’t intelligent enough. It was because my English wasn’t good enough to carry me through. What does that even mean?
It took me some years to figure it out. She simply meant that I hadn’t the ability to decipher what was being looked for on an exam question. When I saw a question, certain words would jump out at me and I would give an answer related to those words, rather than the overall question. It took me years by myself to figure this out and when I did, I simply retrained my brain to take in the whole rather than the parts.
Something that took me years to figure out but had the ability to change quickly, is something that the teacher could have helped me with or at the very least told my parents about.
I had more than enough ability to go to college. I just had one slight problem that would hinder my chances of success.
Instead of following my dream, I chose to listen to that teacher.
I didn’t go to college.
I completed a secretarial course and ended up working in a factory.
It was some years before I took the decision to go to college. It came about when I was a manager of a clothes store that mainly employed students. I would listen to them with loving envy. This one girl, Liz, whom I must have beseeched for days, weeks, months on end about my desire to go to college. Until one day she came bursting out of the fitting room and told me to go to college or shut up talking about it.
I signed up to college shortly after this. More to prove to Liz that I could do it, rather than to myself.
As the years progressed, I have found myself with a Diploma in Marketing, Advertising and PR, a Degree in Business and Marketing, with the only person in my class to receive a first-class honour! Level 9 Master’s Qualifications in Digital Marketing, Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Business & Executive Coaching.
I am the most educated person I know! This isn’t a joke. I am the most educated person I know, personally that is. Obviously, there are a lot more educated people than me in the world, but in my world, I am very well educated.
Answering these questions for Audrey stirred something inside of me. Not a pride for all that I have achieved. But an anger for all of those who may not have achieved. I thought about the people who have not achieved their desires because of something said by a person in authority.
What gives a person a right to say these things and rip another person’s dreams from under them?
For some people, that very dream might be the escape from a system that has been designed to keep them down.
I was so angry and passionate at the thoughts of this. Nobody has the right to trample on that shred of hope to a better life.
I whole-heartedly believe that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what the odds are against you. You have every right to follow your dreams. You have every right to not let anyone hold you back, least of all yourself.
I defied the odds. I don’t know if this is because of my innocence or my determination. Maybe a bit of both. I will do whatever I set out to do, regardless of what others think or say. But this isn’t the case for everyone. Others may have more adverse circumstances, or a lack of belief or self-worth. They may listen to those few negative words from someone and before you know it they trod the path well-trodden. Yes, that is the path that everyone else has followed. All for fear of getting above their station.
What gives people the right to rob the dreams and ambitions of others?
Their own fear.
You need to stay away from the dream stealers and destiny destroyers.
According to the Let Girls Learn initiative there are currently 98 million girls worldwide who are not in school. This is a shocking number. Luckily not an issue for many of us in a first world country. For many of these girls, they don’t have a choice.
But for the majority of us, we do have a choice. We have a choice to follow our own path and turn our dreams into a reality.
If your dreams have been stopped because of words from someone else, then you can make a new choice today and ultimately change the direction of your life.
Education is the way forward, and normally the basis of every dream. You have to learn how to do something in order to master it.
I believe that you can do and be anything that you set your mind to. I know this is possible. You just have to believe this is possible.
It doesn’t matter if you are young, old or somewhere in between. You should go with your heart and follow your dream. It is never too late to achieve what is niggling away inside.
So as International Women’s Day 2018 approaches, let’s celebrate all inspirational women, including yourself. Just like me, you may not see yourself as an inspirational woman, but believe me, everything you do in your life has an effect on those around you.
As of today, give yourself permission to be the person you are meant to be. Go after that dream that up until now seemed impossible to achieve.
Be that inspiration to yourself. Be it to all the others who follow you. Break the mould, light the way and become a beacon of hope.
As women, we don’t very often see ourselves in the light that others see us in. It is our time to take ourselves more seriously and to see ourselves for who we are. It is up to us to pave a new path and show others the way forward. We do this when we step up and follow our own dreams.