You Have Come a Long Way, Girl

Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.”
~ Albert Einstein

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

When I arrived to Canada in 2004, I didn’t know how hard it was going to be: I was prepared to work in anything and I have never been scared of working hard, but I was not prepared for rejection and the worst type of discrimination: being ignored, as if you don’t exist.

For three long years and after trying all what I was told (volunteering, networking, attending job search workshops, studying) I became very depressed and gained weight. I thought my career was over, I was too old for everything and everyone, I was done.

But in 2008 I received the visit of a dear friend who reminded me of who I was: I had worked in open-source projects for schools, I run a Linux website, I used to inspire people and youth.

That same year, I enrolled to my first CDP (Career Developer Practitioner) course: I wanted to help others to deal (if possible, to avoid) the horrible roller-coaster I went through as a newcomer, not-so-young woman and being perceived as belonging to a “minority”.

In 2009 (only five years ago) I attended my first CDP Conference. I was a volunteer and I remember freaking out when introducing the speaker. The same year, I graduated and in 2010, after a few “assistant” jobs, I got my first CDP job.

2009 was an important year: I started volunteering seriously for a big and well-known humanitarian organization after a big personal trauma. This brought all the volunteering and community work that, in turn, brought all my awareness about what is going on in this world.

Last year, and after having become certified, I decided to take the challenge and presenting at the next CDP conference. I applied and proposed three topics and was surprised when the committee approved two of them.

Although I obviously knew and had worked with the topics I presented, there were new for this conference (which tends to be traditional and repeat the topics, something I learned after attending for five years), so I wasn’t expecting a big turnout yesterday or today.

The first workshop (“Using Web 2.0 tools to attract retain and coach in-house and remote clients”) which originally had 22 people registered, drew more than 50 who barely could fit in a room originally set for a max of 30-35 people…

The second one, “Facing the New Economy: helping your clients to navigate the new, the green, the sharing and the gift economies” attracted less (a total of 15 with people joining us later after the break)…being this a really “strange” topic, I wasn’t surprised by the number.

After both presentations, I was approached by career practitioners who told me they were inspired and energized. The second group worked even better than the first, as we discussed the issues their communities and clients share beyond unemployment: food insecurity, discrimination, displacement, always forgotten by the same system that created the issues they have to face.

For somebody like me, who a few years ago was struggling with her own career path, somebody born without many of the privileges taken for granted by some (such attending university and carrying a happy and smooth childhood, enjoying the same neighbours and friends…), this is a huge achievement…

My goal, however, was/is not to just be able to say: “Just watch me” and proudly represent all the immigrants, aboriginals, disabled, mentally ill, those who dropped out of school, those who couldn’t study, those found “ineligible” for visa or services and other minorities who struggle to find a job or just with being heard.

My goal was (and continues to be) to push the idea that our society is changing: whether we want it or not, whether we want to support the shift or not.

A “new economy” is emerging everywhere: part of it has nothing new; it has always had a discriminatory component which considered some better and more deserving than others. But some factors are “new” in that they are now hitting the unthinkable: middle class, “majorities” and “developed” countries’ peoples.

The factors we see as part of the change are many, but some of the ones we talked today were increasing unemployment  and underemployment(reaching all types of groups, skilled and non skilled, youth and aging, immigrants and locals), including loss of benefits, unstable jobs, abuse, etc. This new economy also brought more food insecurity and generalized vulnerability.

To understand these factors we need to look at what is causing them, so I introduced many of the topics I talk about in my other blog (climate change, resource depletion, social inequality, etc.)

In parallel to this “new” economy, we can observe two other trends: the “green” economy (corporate and government driven, even if with huge contradictions and “green-washing” components) and the “sharing” and “gift” economies: grassroots and community driven.

Web 2.0 tools are acting as a catalyst for the two trends above, facilitating the process through connections and sharing information and projects successes. Social media is also being used to denounce the abuses happening as a result of this “new” economy trend where employees are being seen as pawns in a chest game.

As career practitioner, I like to see myself as 1) a social worker or social activist and 2) somebody who promotes, coaches and supports the “right livelihood” for everyone: the right to live a conscious and meaningful life, where the social, the environmental and the economic are all considered and understood as part of a deeper relationship: the relationship we have with each other and with the rest of this wonderful planet inhabitants.

Looking at that little bare feet girl playing with cousins in the mud and back to me today, my grandma would have said: “You have come a long way, girl”.

You bet grandma!

The way ahead, however, is even longer, as the Beatles would say: It is a “long and winding road”…but after today, I feel more inspired and energized.

The “blessed unrest” (as author Paul Hawken calls it) of people and organizations around the world who are changing the world to create a more inclusive, just, resilient and sustainable lifestyles for all, are my best company.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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