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Creative Solutions: Needed & Not Easy

It is hard to create a solution for a problem that we do not agree even exists. There is a gulf of inequality between people that is like an elephant in the room. There it stands but nobody knows how to begin the conversation. Instead we strive to keep going and pretend the thing, (that takes up so much space), isn’t there.

How did we get here?

My whole adult life has been a pursuit of more. At the age my children are now, I wanted to take my place in the world, make my own money and make my own decisions. Becoming employed, (I thought), was the path I needed to take. I started with babysitting, then a 2-week job at the Calgary Stampede, which lead to a part-time position at the Hudson’s Bay Company.

On it went. One success after another. Some companies and certain tasks I liked more than others. I finished my time at various post-secondary institutions, cobbling together an education. Then the same process as before, get out into the world and hustle. Do whatever it was that the people in power wanted me to do. I didn’t ask for anything extra.

Early on I realized that I was not suited to manual labor for 2 reasons. I didn’t want to work that hard, getting sweaty and dirty and I would not have been hired anyway. I was perfectly fine with this trade-off. It was only years later that I realized I was dealing with pre-selected-limited choices. I was a little upset by that idea, but I didn’t want to change the status quo anymore than I wanted to swing a hammer on a construction site.

Until 2016, I worked within the system as best as I could. I stayed in my lane, as the saying goes. But, for some of us, heading into midlife causes a shift in perspective. Mine was slowly built into a realization that the trade of time for money was not working for me anymore. I cared too much about the work and not enough for the rest of my life.

As I think about my life and what led up to my decision to radically change my path, there are many constants. I had a fair amount of privilege that helped me get what I wanted, which I didn’t take the time to be grateful for. When I bumped up against limitations, I tried to rationalize them away. Sexist comments and treatment at work, I ignored and pretended it didn’t happen. I had decided that I was not going to fight injustice. Instead I doubled down and worked harder, as if to somehow prove my worth.

I skated along like this until I couldn’t. Luckily, I had very few people in my professional team. The type of work I focused on was pretty solitary. I could easily put my head down and a week would go by without needing to meet or collaborate with others. But corporations like their hierarchies and I eventually was asked to hire and lead a larger business unit. The skills I had built up until that point had not prepared me for the challenge. The tables had turned and the world had changed.

What used to be simple for me, became complex. I had people on all sides who needed different things. The diversity was not extreme, but it entailed more emotional intelligence to navigate than I had to give. I felt mistreated by an increasing awareness of the patriarchy and the limitations it placed on my future.

Yet, I was also aware of entitlement. My husband and I had settled into a geographical area which we thought was a good place to raise children. Then we worried that they would not understand the world from such a limited perspective. So we packed up and went travelling.

After a year away we returned home different people. What we didn’t know at that point was our trip was a dress rehearsal for covid-19. By spending that much time together, often living in quite small accommodations, and going long stretches without IRL interactions, we had built up resilience.

When we did get the opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories, we built empathy. Even when we didn’t get the chance to speak, we got to observe. There are many ways to create a life, some are filled with excess and others are lacking. It was overwhelming to be in places like Cape Town, South Africa where the divide between how people live is so wide and so obvious to the tourists.

We purchased very little in our travels, but we brought home treasures. As we dove back into our old lives we vowed to be different humans. While that may not be obvious to everyone who knows us, we have honoured our promises to each other. Almost every night we sit together over dinner and talk. Not idle chit chat, but deep and meaningful conversation about world events.

Given what is going on in the world right now, during a pandemic and an awakening to injustice and inequality, you need to have all your wits about you at our house. Our children are using the internet to be well informed and as a jumping off point for deeper learning. It is interesting and depressing in almost equal measure.

When I hoped that my children would not become too entitled and that travel would cure them of that, I had not expected that they would support and hope for a complete resetting of the status quo. Actually, that might be putting it too mildly, they want an entirely different system for society as a whole. The want equality for all, not matter what. They feel anything less than that is an unbearable compromise.

Sigh.

When I think back to what was most important to me when I was a young adult, I feel the generational divide as a wide distance. There are many moments when I wonder what we have in common. My children are looking for a revolution and I am planning for retirement. I wonder if all parents feel this way at some point? I wonder if my own parents thought this about me?

At the same time, I am learning something unexpected. I did not think I would be researching into the depths of inequality in our society. I honestly did not realize how bad the situation is and has been for a very long time. When I start peeling back the layers, I understand the rage of those who have been living this nightmare. My instinct is to take action, but I’ve had to learn to sit with this knowledge for a minute first. Feeling empathy for the current situation is more important at this moment.

Solutions will come when everyone will admit there is a problem. Or maybe when the numbers of people required stand together and declare, it is time. This tipping point is coming. In fact, we may be very close already. When all those who feel disenfranchised with the status quo band together, amazing things are possible.

At the beginning of the global pandemic, just a minute before it was declared, I was sure of everything. Now, I am not. In just a few months, society seems to be tipping. Much is the same, but there is an under current of change on the wind. It needs to happen and I support it. Clearly what got us to this point in history is not going to carry us forward to the kind of world we need in the future.

If the idea of change has piqued your curiosity, have a quick read of this article.

Next week I am returning to my main topic of interest – creativity. Maybe when my schedule returns to social creativity there will have been some changes in society to dig into. For now we need to have empathy for those who are marginalized. Some of us need to understand our entitlement. Then we can come together and create a better future for all.

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