Sunday, March 22, 2015

Being the Ladder

"Tying a Rope to a Mooring Ring"
by Crystal Przybille
Victoria BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall

What is the value of being the ladder?

I've been considering my career and my role in the organization with whom I work. Then I have been taking a broader look from a greater height at the way I go about things. Part of it comes from some of the learning I did about how I work on my writing at the WordsThaw event in Victoria yesterday.

I had my first session with an author, reviewing a first draft page of short fiction that I had written. I was a bit terrified that he would throw it on the floor and tell me it was an offense to his senses. He didn't. He was very helpful. It made me wonder though, why do I assume the worst about my self in the work I do, whether writing or day job or anything at which I work? How did I come to feel so "less than" about many of the things I do? As I have said before, I think there is merit in a modicum of self-doubt. I think we should review how and why we go about things and question our reasoning. The thing I don't want to do is compare my value against that of another. When we start holding our work, ourselves, up against others, it does not always serve us well as one must always be "less than" and one "more than". 

In my paid work, I feel as though I have hit a glass ceiling. Recently, when I apply for jobs and do not get them, I ask for feedback - ways I could improve my lot and my chances of "moving up". I am usually met with a "You did great but the successful candidate had 'more experience' or 'a degree'". Okay, that may be all there is to it. There is a lot of competition out there. I do feel that sometimes people don't want to have the difficult conversations about why a candidate was not selected. I would rather know than not, but there is little one can do about the actions of others. 

One thing I have realized is that I have (joyously) spent a lot of time helping others with their careers and life decisions - mentoring and guiding them in ways to facilitate their success. They are all wonderful people who have had or created great opportunities for themselves with respect to their lives and their educations and, sometimes, they are more willing to conform within an organization than I am. Perhaps it is a lifetime of standing up and pointing out elephants in the room, clearing paths for those that have been treated as "less than" and saying "no" to discrimination and dismissal of the value of difference as someone who identifies as LGBT*. I think that has come to be a part of my role - who I am and what I do. It's not on my resume and it may not be in my job description, but it is the heart of the work I do. I'm good at it and I enjoy it. 

So, I am wondering, perhaps my role is to be the ladder rather than the person who climbs it. Not with my writing - I don't even look at my writing that way - it's just that yesterday's symposium set me thinking about how I view myself. When I think about being the ladder or the conduit, I feel quite good about myself. Sometimes this type of role is undervalued in a society where those who make more money are considered more valuable, even though that doesn't really make sense ...just cents. 

As far as my writing goes, it's difficult to think about it in terms of a value statement. It is valuable to me because I love to do it. I love to write this blog. I love to write fiction and CNF and poetry. I am excited by the thought of finishing my novel and starting the next project. I wish I could be paid to stay home and write but I am grateful for my paid position and the things it affords me. I LOVE the volunteer work I do through my paid work because it forwards the causes of equity, diversity and inclusion. I am grateful for those opportunities and the brilliant people who serve on the committees and from whom I learn so much.

I suppose what I would like to let go of is the financial "have and have not" comparison and live happily with my way of being. I am not less than because I have chosen this role for myself - one that is not as financially valued. I am doing well. I enjoy serving my fellow humans. I love helping people reach their potential whether they are friends, students, colleagues, partners or strangers. It is a good life, a life with meaning and a value that is measured beyond the dollar. Being the ladder is good. 

I apologize for the self-serving nature of this post, but I do hope that it helps someone out there, for we are all in this together - this life thing. As well, I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to all of the amazing people who have been my ladder along the way, all of those who hold up the lantern to light my path when I fall off course or when I get lost in the darkness. By no means do I walk this road alone! You know who you are and I am blessed by your love throughout my life. 

If you have insights or questions, please leave a comment and, as always, thank you for reading.

-Gillian Cornwall, c March 22, 2015

 Digging our way through
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

More or Less
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012


Alberta said...

Good subject. I think we alternate between being a ladder and being the one who climbs it. Just as everything else in life, no position is static so I accept the opportunities to be a ladder and am grateful when I find one that I can climb.

You have been a ladder in my life and I hope I have returned the favour. Life is grand!

Gillian said...

Thanks for the comment, Alberta. You certainly have been a support to me in times gone by and I am grateful for it. Glad I, too, have been a ladder for you!
Love and good wishes,

Cheryl said...

This post was full of AHA! moments for me. I relate to the glass ceiling, to the mentoring and volunteerism, and to the constant temptation to compare our writing to others' and to come out feeling inadequate. My own volunteerism and mentoring has been with my union local and that brought me briefly into contact with your volunteerism (which by the way is an inspiration and as another who identifies as LGBT, I thank you for your work!) and opened my eyes to future avenues where I might focus. I've sometimes wondered if I am more ladder than climber, and felt conflicted. This piece helps to remove that conflict and see the ladder as a useful and important role.

Gillian said...

Thank you very much, Cheryl. I am so pleased that the post resonated with you.
Sometimes the ladder, sometimes the climber, but we are always the seeker. Sometimes the conduit, connecting people with places and ideas and opportunities, but we are always walking our own paths as well. At times, we are the ones holding the lantern for others to see their way, then others hold the light for us. Such is the balance of life. Thanks again for reading the post and for sharing your thoughts.