Why Getting Fired From Alberta Education is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

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NOTE: This piece was originally published on my other blog, The Blaed on July 13, 2011

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree, am in Grant MacEwan’s Applied Communications in Professional Writing Certificate program (going into my second year). In my past I have guest lectured at the University of Alberta (for 10 years running), ran a local theatre company, produced plays, written as a regular contributer for local magazines and been the primary caregiver for my parents. I tell you this so you’ll have an idea about me.

So I was excited to be able to work for the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Education (the specific department shall remain nameless). Here was a chance to step up my career. I had blocked out the trauma of working for the Government of Alberta three years ago and decided this was my chance to shine.

I pride myself in my ability to produce quality work quickly. This blog, for example, will go through one edit before it hits the line. Normally I’d do a couple of them, but I feel this is important. So, I can produce quality work quickly. Let me qualify that; I can produce quality work quickly if I know what it is I’m writing about and the style I’m writing in. I’m fairly adaptable, so I’m comfortable working in a number of styles but this easy, laid-back manner you see here is the one I like best.

So I was hired in June by the Ministry of Education to “tell Education’s story”. Specifically, I was hired in June to use my own laid-back writing style to “tell Education’s story”. “We want *you* to tell Education’s story,” I was told by the man who hired me. All right. I can do that. A week before I was hired I went online and tried to get a sense of what I was getting into. What I saw didn’t comfort me.

Go to the Ministry of Education’s website sometime. It’s chaotic, drowning in government-ese and dry as hell. It says little and what it does say is pretty useless…. in my opinion. However, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I needed this job and I needed to shine. I could do this.

Problems arose in the first week of my employment. I raised the possibility of doing a story on Mr. Bob Maskell, an incredible educator who’s made an impact on so many lives. That was shot down. Good try, I was told, but we couldn’t feature just one educator (who is retired), it’d look like favoritism. No, I thought, it’d look like we appreciate those teachers and educators who dedicated their lives to being the best they could. Never mind, they had another idea.

My boss plopped a document on the table; the “Framework for Action“. This was what they wanted me to write on. This document has been in the making for years and is extremely intricate. There are subtleties and nuances that would take years to decipher. Okay. In my own style, huh? I could do this.

To give you an idea of the task at hand, open the document and read it. I had two days, tops, to learn each section, its history and where it was going then write a 250 word piece on it. Factor in to that I’m not getting to talk to the managers who’s responsible for each section. No. I get documents in legalese and whatever I could find on the Internet. Still, I managed. I thought. First meeting with the boss I found out I didn’t have a clue. Back to the drawing board.

When you work as a journalist, you need to have a feel for your topic. It isn’t necessary to read every document written on it so long as you get an idea of what it’s about. It needs to be accurate, but you don’t have to know every aspect of it. For example, you don’t need to get a pilot’s licence to write about flying for a big airline . Not so with the Ministry of Education. I had to know these things inside and out and they are complicated. So, off to round two.

Between round one and two my mentor decided he was too busy for me so he passed me off to someone else in the office. Was I okay with that? Perspective time; I’m a summer student. I don’t have a lot of room for opinion. Keep your mouth shut and your head down. That’s the summer student’s motto. Even if it means being passed off like a bad date to a co-worker who’s first language is not English. Yes, she had a doctorate in research, but I’m a writer doing writing in English. I’m not a researcher translating my writing. That’s like a penguin trying to teach a duck to swim.

At this point I felt confirmation of my role was needed. My writing was too bland and needed more colour and excitement. I needed anecdotes and examples, my original mentor (still my boss) said. Okay. I can do that. So I let myself go and brought out my writing crayons, so to speak. Time for colour.

The second time around wasn’t as nice as the first time. What on earth was I thinking using anecdotes and examples? That’s not government style of writing. Also, I still had some tense issues (due to actions in the past affecting the future) but that’s easily dealt with. For example, I might write “the report he wrote yesterday will be discussed in tomorrow’s meeting.” Perfectly sound sentence, but not strictly grammatically correct. Also, I didn’t have enough examples and the writing was bland.

By this time I got the help of my new mentor and a co-worker to edit the pieces. I wasn’t seeing something, perhaps they’d see it. We’d edit two or three times before I was comfortable and then I headed for round number three. Oh good lord.

One of the pieces I’d worked on was particularly delicate so I went to the person who’s project it was and asked them to make sure everything was correct. When it was returned to me, this person had thrown out one section completely, two others were deleted (this person and the boss decided they weren’t needed. Was I asked? Nope. I was informed by e-mail) and another was so heavily edited it didn’t resemble anything I’d written. Okay, I thought, I had it wrong. I can do this.

I reworked the pieces and showed the boss who promptly got angry because they were unusuable.  They had no factual information and said little about the actual program. So, digging through my garbage, I got the original I’d written, retyped it and prepared to hand that in.

Now we get to round four. Understand that by this time I’m going home shaking, in tears and becoming dangerously depressed. If it wasn’t for the amazing support of instructors, friends, family and fellow writers, I would have either wound up in the hospital from a suicide attempt or from severe trauma. I could no longer look at my co-workers, let alone talk to them. I thought about giving up writing completely. It was my support network who held me up during this time and told me I could get through it and keep going. Several said I was too good a writer to quit. Even as I write this I’m crying. I can’t help it. I think of that time and can’t function.

By this time I was going to work not with the idea of producing anything quality, I felt like a hostage to a sociopath. All I wanted to do was give them what they wanted so they’d let me go. From 7 am to 4 pm, working through lunches and breaks, all I kept thinking was, “they said I could leave at the end of August.”

So, now I was given the instructions to “write in Government Voice.” Let me back this truck up a minute. There are classes dedicated to learning this style. There are writers who specialize in this style and take years to perfect it. Government writing style is very precise and there is an art to it. I have never written in this style in my life. This style is not interesting to me, it’s very bland and like chewing on drywall. However, those who can do it well have my utmost respect.

Let’s toss in here a round of computer problems that took three days to fix because the IT guys forgot to hook me up to the right network. Oh, now let’s add the fact that none of the people in charge of the projects are allowing me to talk to them. Instead, I’m handed documents in legalese that outline the project. I’m supposed to decipher these and make them understandable in government style. I leap over tall buildings in a single bound and dress in leather as a bat and stop crimes in my spare time, too.

So, back to round four. My boss walks into my office and informs me I’m texting too much on my phone. I text to keep me in touch with people who keep me sane, by the way.  He then spends the next hour and half to two hours asking me if I’m “supported” (I felt like we were talking about me needing a jock strap). Talk about turning up the pressure. Yes, on the surface he was asking me if he could help me. Yet, in the same breath he’d say things like, “I need results” and “I expected more.” This “chat” let me know I was on my last legs and yet I still had no clue what they wanted.

I called up my doctor, a wonderful man who knows me and knows I don’t ask to see him often, asking to see about medicating me for stress. I may not do well with most psychiatric drugs (learned that while trying to deal with my sleeping disorder), but maybe there was an herbal remedy he could recommend.

Yesterday I gave it one more try. I gave my boss work I wasn’t proud of, work I’d never admit to doing, work so sterilized of any life I didn’t recognize it. He hated it. No, not the sterilization. He liked that. What he pointed out was places I’d missed a comma (I got 15 minutes on that) or places he felt were unclear (three other people had read them several times. He was the only one that thought those places were a problem). In other words, he was looking for trouble and found it. By the time it was over, he looked at me and said, “if you can’t give me what I ask for, you’ll never make it as a writer in any corporation.”

He crossed a line. I reached past all the crap I’d been handed in the past month and stopped listening to him. The corrections he wanted took only a half hour to make but I drew it out all afternoon. I was going to quit at the end of the month. I kept hearing his words in my head over and over and got angrier and angrier. Over and over again I’d produced quality work that he’d told me he wanted. Over and over it wasn’t good enough. I had to spend three and half hours listening to Ministry of Education employees pat themselves on the back and being paraded around instead doing the job I was being paid to do. I had to listen to my bosses “are you being supported” speeches over and over instead of getting clear instructions. Now I was being told I was a mediocre writer and never going to be a professional. Yes, I was angry.

By the time I was fired this morning I didn’t care. I cried tears of relief as I packed up my things and left. Here’s what the boss who was so concerned if I was being supported did; he read my termination from a letter then walked out. He didn’t have the decency to ask me if I had anything to say or even say to me “don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.” He left and went on his way.

I feel better now being without a job than I have in the past month. I’m free and I can go back to doing what I love; writing. I don’t know what will come of this blog, probably nothing. I do know this; I wrote this on the fly and it’s not bad and it feels so good to just write again.

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A Toast to the Fallen

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Here it is, New Year’s Eve day and my last blog of the year. It’s been a strange year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights, lessons learned and heartaches.

Feminism

In the past I thought that feminism was merely trying to balance the scales. In this past year I’ve learned that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t begin to navigate that iceberg until we start chipping away at the elephant in the room; abuse.

Abuse comes in many forms; domestic, parental, sibling, person in power; but it all boils down to the same thing. One person exercising control over another. Whether that control is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or a combination thereof doesn’t matter. What matters is the disproportionate amount of women who are at the receiving end. I think 2019 will see me addressing this matter more and more.

Poverty

I’ve been an avid advocate of those who live in poverty. Mainly because I experience it first hand. However, in 2018 I saw how much racism affects poverty and the damage they can do together. There is still a genocidal race going on but it’s been pushed beneath the blankets and has become more insidious.

One note of optimism, though, is the idea of Basic Income. I see this as a brand new hope for those living in poverty and will keep advocating for it wherever I can. I think 2019 will see me continuing to support such efforts as End Poverty Edmonton and Basic Income. I’m a writer and words are cheap. If my words can help then I will spill them freely.

Health

I’m fat and along with that is an awareness of my health that others don’t have. In 2018 I learned that everyone and their god has an opinion about my size, my body, my lifestyle, my health, my eating habits, my exercise routine, my attitude, my ego (or lack), my self respect….. well, you get the idea. Apparently being overweight means that anyone with an internet connection can tell you how to live your life.

So my message in 2019 will be this; not your body, not your rules/business. Okay, that’s been my message all along but I think it’s time to get louder about it. All these well-meaning “health” gurus need to shut up. To sell their crap they bombard us fatties with these shaming messages over and over. They claim concern over our health or our lifestyle. They claim they understand and empathize. The truth is that I’m a dollar sign to them and nothing more and that needs to stop. I don’t care what color bow they put on that package, all that passive-aggressive shit is just a hard sales tactic and that’s it. This year is about loving the body you have and taking care of it which is a conversation between you and your doctor.

Creativity

2018 I began expanding my creative self into the world of art. Okay. So far it looks like it was painted by a drunken 5 year old most of the time. However, I’ll get there. After all, I mastered writing, didn’t I? Okay. Stop giggling.

Lastly, I leave you with this as 2018 comes to a close; it’s been a rough year and we’ve survived. Live, love, laugh, cry and remember to always keep going forward.

Me. Too.

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Yesterday I got mansplained.

Specifically, I had my writing mansplained.

Now regular readers will know that I have little tolerance for people’s crap and care even less for the opinions of others. There is a myth that if you’re a writer you’ll welcome any and all criticism as a chance to grow. Let me turn on the light on this one. It’s bullshit and I’ll tell you why. Not everyone’s opinion matters and few opinions will actually help you grow.

Varric in Dragon Age 2 said it best, “opinions are like testicles. You kick them hard enough, it doesn’t matter how many you’ve got.”

There are people whose opinions and criticisms I seek out but I’m very picky about it. Criticism is meant to help me see things that I may not see myself. It is meant to help me grow as a person. Therefore, I seek out those individuals I trust to give me an honest assessment even if it’s not what I want to hear. Even that’s not enough. This person has to be someone that I see lives a life that I can respect and admire. This person is going to help me determine the direction my life takes. That’s a huge responsibility and one that is going to be taken seriously.

So that’s why I generally ignore most of the criticism that comes online. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hear from people and love it most when people share their own stories but I’m not interested in hearing your opinion on me, my sex life, my fat, my writing, my whatever.

When I wrote the piece “The Housing Crisis As Seen From Below”, it was in response to my city’s desire to remove adult only housing. As someone who lives in poverty, it affects me directly and I wrote out my frustrations as I so often do. Shortly after I published it I was approached by someone who works in my city’s poverty industry (those organizations dedicated to eliminating poverty). This man is well-known and well-respected in the community. I looked forward to discussing the issues with him. I’ll call him John Doe as I don’t want to release his name.

A discussion of issues is not what I got, however. I was tempted to post the entire email wholesale and let the internet do its thing but my rational brain took over at the last minute (it never lets me have any fun) and I put a stop to that. Instead of a discussion among peers, here’s a sample of what I got;

I think you have a voice that should be heard, but here is some unsolicited advice, meant to help you not criticize you.

If you want to be an effective advocate and writer, I suggest you tone down the anger and tone down your self-effacing remarks. They do not serve you well – like it or not, people don’t want your anger, they want your ideas. And don’t downplay yourself (e.g. “yes, that makes me an asshole”). If people think you’re an asshole, let them, but don’t give them ammunition. Lots of people think I am an asshole, too outspoken, or have radical ideas yet lots of people follow my personal blog, appreciate me, are interested in what I have to say. I am good with all of it.

Your ending will turn off people who may very well be on your side — “But, fuck it. The poor only matter as a photo op.” First lots of people don’t see poor people that way, Lots. Some might but the people you want to listen to you, don’t. It’s a turn off in my mind. Just my 2 cents.

Yeah.

I’m not a person that likes confrontation. Years of abuse trained me to keep people happy at all costs. This, though, made me angry. The condescension of it made me taste bile in the back of my throat. As I read the words, “here is some unsolicited advice” I could hear some guy saying, “you know what I think…?” My answer is the same either way, I don’t give a crap what you think and your unsolicited advice is not welcome.

I won’t even go into how the whole “tone down the anger” part made me feel. Or the words “they do not serve you well” feeling like I’m a naughty school girl (no, not in a Stormy Daniels way, either). Here was a man who decided that his opinion was so goddamn important he had to shove it down my throat.

I sent a rather lengthy email back. In short it was a version of “thanks for your opinion now fuck off” but in far nicer terms. As I said, I don’t like confrontation. It makes me itch.

The next email I got (which I may post tomorrow if I’m still angry) read like an essay being corrected. Instead of responding in his own space, he took over the email I sent and wrote his responses in red around my words. Seriously. WTF? The part that really enraged me was his comparison of being bullied at school for being a geek to my revelation of being abused by my family for much of my life. While I do fight against bullying, they’re not close to the same. You can leave your school. I had no options and while I finally did leave my family, it’s a decision that will have impact for the rest of my life. Come see me at Christmas and then let’s compare your elementary school bullying to my family abuse.

My next response was short and sweet. A very nice version of leave me alone.

I am actually way too enraged to answer this right now. That you don’t see the problem is the problem. I need to calm down before I give any further response. Have a nice day.

But he didn’t. His emails continued despite my repeated attempts to ask him to leave me alone so I could calm down and think about the situation. Dammit, I was going to take his criticism whether I wanted to or not. He even went so far as to leave his cell phone number in case I wanted to “chat on the phone” (because that’s a good idea).

It didn’t stop. He fished out a four year old post I wrote on poverty and said he wanted to repost it on his blog. I gave him permission but no indication I wanted to talk. There were more emails. I finally had enough.

One of my heroes is Kirk Acevedo. So it’s no surprise when I feel I’ve been backed into a corner I come out fighting like a dragon. It’s a #kidviciousarmy thing. I sent an email back lashing out like I rarely do. That’s when John Doe got angry in return.

Here is a man with power and influence who wouldn’t leave me alone and now he’s angry with me. Can anyone see how this will end up? I had a full blown panic attack and at 9:30pm I called the cell phone number he left. Only to have him shut me down and refuse to talk.

Finally I talked to a dear friend who listened and let me vent. This is a woman I admire. Whose opinions matter to me. She reminded me that it was my writing, my story, my words. Not his and not to let him take that from me no matter who he is.

So I won’t tone down the anger. I won’t stop tilting at windmills. I won’t stop. This is my story. These are my words.

ME. TOO.

Angry

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Today I got angry.

There are a thousand reasons in a day why I will get angry. Pick one. Racism, homophobia, body shaming, poverty, bad Hollywood movies… take your time. I’ve got a while. It’s not as though I go through my entire day angry at the world. I think about the battles I choose to fight very carefully and some of them do make me angry.

Today I got angry.

One of the battles I choose to fight is poverty. Let me reword that. One of the battles I choose to fight is the distribution of wealth because I live in a nation that has an embarrassment of riches while this winter homeless people will freeze to death. It’s a battle I choose to fight because I live it.

Recently I wrote a blog about Edmonton’s housing situation and another on the problem with wealth distribution. Both of them vent my anger rather nicely and I’m rather proud of them. However, they did raise some eyebrows and criticism from someone I respect and admire.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind criticism. I cut my teeth as a writer with some editors who I swear lived on writer’s tears. This, though, made me angry.

This person told me that I should tone down my anger because people don’t want my anger. To be fair, they’re right. People don’t want my anger but it’s not going away because the situation that made me angry isn’t going away. Long before those posts ever saw the light of day I took steps to try to alter the situation through polite discourse and reason.

That worked oh so well.

This person then fixated on a comment I made about people in power using the poor for photo ops. I stand by my statement and I’m not taking it away no matter how uncomfortable it makes people. People in power stay there because they do things like this to fool the populace into thinking they give a shit about the little folks. They don’t. It’s smoke and mirrors and those of us on this side see it for what it is. However, this person told me that “lots of people don’t see poor people that way.”

And that’s when I saw red, Your Honour.

If there is one person out there who can tell me the difference between this statement and #NotAllMen or #NotAllWhites, I’d love to hear it. Start the discussion with a whip and chair, though, because I’m not really in a listening mood.

This person could be right. It’s possible that not all people see the poor this way. However, enough do and if you find yourself using any version of “not all” in any way then you’re part of the damn problem.

So today I got angry and I put on my Don Quixote personality and politely told this person I would keep getting angry at a situation that deserves nothing but my anger.

Tomorrow I will get angry too.

Employment and the Mentally Ill

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Back in the summer of 2011, I worked as a writer for Alberta Education. It was such an absolute nightmare for me that had I not had the good fortune to be fired, I would have found myself in the psych ward in the hospital within a week. I wish I could say that is an exaggeration but it isn’t. As a result of this nightmare, two things happened; I began to have panic attacks. These attacks were triggered when I tried to write or when I was working in a job and had to talk to the boss. Just thinking about it is enough to quicken my breathing and make a panic attack seem imminent.

Yes, I tried to work but the anxiety got the better of me and I simply couldn’t anymore. The idea, just the simple thought, of talking to a boss still makes me want to shut down. However, I’m not one to give up without a fight so, recently, I thought perhaps I could work part-time somewhere. A couple of days a week shouldn’t overwhelm me and would give me time to recuperate for the next shift.

See, aside from the anxiety, I’m actually a great worker. In an office I’m versatile and creative. Show me what you need done and I’ll get it done. In retail, I’m actually very patient with the customers and like to help. I understand what it’s like trying to find something and needing some help. So, with that in mind, I applied to some local businesses. Like Walmart.

There is a new trend in corporations to use psych tests as a means to thin out the resumes they get. The belief being that they can get the type of person they want without all the hassle of actually talking to people. It’s cookie cutter thinking and it’s dangerous.

Anyone who’s been trained as a psychologist or psychiatrist will tell you that without the proper training and proper testing methods, these tests are, at best, useless. A true psych test such as the MMPI has very specific questions that answer questions that the psychologist or psychiatrist may face. However, these tests are meant to be a tool, not a means to weed people out.

Think of it this way; a hammer is a tool that can help a person with the right experience and training to build a house. However, that hammer cannot build the house by itself. These big corporations are relying on these mini psych tests to do their job for them. A job they were never designed to do.

Further, these tests are not full psych tests. There is a great deal missing from them. A true psychological test done by a trained professional has multiple questions dealing with the same or a similar issue. This is done not only to determine who’s trying to fake something but is also a means to gauge how deep an issue may go. These mini tests don’t have the follow up questions. Therefore, the corporation is only getting a very skewed picture of the person.

There is a very real human rights danger here, though. Those tests can reveal any mental health issues such as, in my case, anxiety. Suddenly the person with a mental illness finds themselves and their illness exposed to strangers without their knowledge or consent. I find that frightening. It goes deeper, though. Once exposed, the corporation will red flag that person so that any subsequent resumes they send in are automatically rejected without even being glanced at.

What does that mean? That means that those with mental health issues are being denied jobs based on their disability. Yet, most of the time they don’t even know this is going on. That the human resources department has red flagged them because their mental illness showed up on a test they neither have the training nor experience to administer.

I find all of that terribly, terribly frightening. Don’t you?

Media and Mob Mentality

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When I first started out as a freelance journalism I worked with some editors that made me cuss like a drunken sailor. I hated them. They didn’t see my “vision” and were stifling my “creative muse.” Basically, they didn’t get it.

One editor was so old school, he did his rough drafts on a manual typewriter that looked like it was straight out of the 30s. When I went to his office, I could hear him banging away at the keys so hard I was sure he was going to break his fingers. There was something to that sound, though. You could always count on it when you entered the office. The world might end and zombies might rise up but that old keyboard would be clacking away.

He didn’t take any shit and he had an old red pencil (or maybe several of them) always near to hand. I’d give him a piece and that pencil would come out right away. When he was done with it, the paper looked like it lost a fight with Freddy Kreuger. If I was near tears, he’d look at me and say, “well? Good journalism doesn’t come easy. Get to it.”

Another editor was a soft-spoken woman who reminded me of a velvet covered steel bar. She was polite and calm but she had this line in the sand that was as firm as the Wall of China. She demanded that I provide her with all my research and she or her assistant scrupulously checked every single fact. If anything was off, the piece had to be redone. I never knew where she found the time but I often pulled my hair out over some fact I’d glossed over that she refused to allow.

Yet another editor was a former military man. He had the bearing of MacArthur and the voice of Pavarotti. An odd combination but it worked for him. He would sit me down and go over the piece word by word if necessary to help me to understand how to make it better. He’d allow me some room for my “voice” but, in the end, journalism was a harsh taskmistress and he wanted me to know her inside and out.

Today, blogging has replaced the old school journalism. The Huffington Post has all but replaced the traditional newspapers. In our desire to have our news RIGHT NOW, the old school media is falling by the wayside. Even traditional newspapers are turning to blogging as a means to keep afloat. After all, why wait a full day for a newspaper to be printed when we can find out about things now. After all, there’s a lion killing dentist that needs a lesson and mob mentality demands it be done RIGHT NOW! And your opinion on breastfeeding or the latest shooting is absolutely required.

Blogging has its place in the world. It gives us perspective on events in the world. Right wing, left wing, religious, scientific, you name it. Everyone has a blog and an opinion. It’s important to hear these opinions not because we agree or disagree with them but because this is how we open a dialogue with each other. Only when we talk to each other do we begin to understand and with understanding comes peace. However, there is a danger with blogging that most people don’t think about.

No editors.

Love em or hate em, editors fulfill a vital role in media. They are the crap filters. Whether it’s bogus facts or just a shitty piece, they’re the ones who filter all that out. Without them, we’re swimming in crap and don’t know the good stuff from the bad. It’s a recipe for disaster. As a writer, there is an obligation you have to the reader. Don’t sell a 5 cent hat as a one of a kind thousand dollar item.

Readers take your words at face value. If you say A is true, they will believe it and get on that bandwagon. If you say that a lion killing dentist is an irredeemable human being who deserves to die, they will believe you. If you shout out about terrorism, feminism, bullying, whatever, they will believe you and get behind you.

Not all writers have scruples. Some writers just want readers at any cost and don’t care who they hurt to get there. Not all blogs or online magazines are like this and that’s just trouble. How do you sift the shit from clear water when it all looks the same at first glance? How do you know you’re getting facts and not just a pile of snake oil?

You don’t.

We need to bring back editors and start demanding a better quality of news online. Not just a rampant hodge podge of whatever looks good. We need to sift the sand from the diamonds or online news has got to take responsibility for the mob mentality that it builds.

(Side note: I’m not supporting said lion-killing dentist. This is an example only.)

Shut Up

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More often than not I’m told to shut up or some version thereof. I’m not surprised. I tend to be bluntly honest about what I see and how I feel about things which can be unnerving for some people. It’s not that I’m rude unless I’m cranky at someone, which I don’t do without good reason. All of this leads up to a variation of “shut up” when I speak out about something.

“No one wants to hear.” “No one’s listening to you.” “One person talking can’t make a difference to anything.” “It’s all been said.” “Who do you think is going to listen to you?” “People are tired of hearing about it.”

The problem with this sage advice is I tend to be a bit of a Don Quixote. I keep tilting at those windmills in hopes of slaying that dragon. My windmills are those things I see as unfair or wrong. Racism, bullying, LGBTQ rights, pro-choice, the list goes on. There are things that are wrong in the world and I’m not going to shut up about.

So why not just  go along with the masses and let things be. After all, how much impact can one person have?

A young teen went on YouTube and spoke out about why girls in her country should have an education. Since then she’s gone on to continue speaking about the need to educate girls and women’s rights. Malala Yousafzai was just one young girl but now she’s a voice that’s heard.

A woman was on a bus when a bus driver ordered  her to give up her seat to a white passenger. She refused. She was arrested and helped to spark a revolution that ended segregation. Rosa Parks did one small act that changed an entire country.

The list goes on of small people doing small acts that change big things. Malcolm X, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller… Each of them were just one person doing what they could to make their world a better place. People following their consciences.

I’m no Mandela or Keller. I don’t claim that greatness. I do claim to have a voice. Even if it’s a small one. When I claimed the title of “Writer” I also accepted certain obligations. To speak out. To question the world around me. To give voice to those who have no voice.

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