I was privileged to be invited to the BPW Geelong group to speak at their annual breakfast event, themed “moving On Up”, held at the GMHBA Stadium. It was an incredible view over the grounds as the sun came up. I can admire it because I usually make a point of not being awake when the sun comes up!
The topic was about resilience being your greatest asset and the intro that was given used all of my not-too-insignificant achievement to introduce me. I wanted everyone to know that I had a achieved many amazing things in my life over the last 30 years or so since I started to embrace “adulting”. (I’m still not sure I’ve nailed it 😊). The reason I wanted them to know that is because of how I grew up.
My family home was not… comfortable. As I told the audience, my first memories are off my father belting the living daylights out of my mother. The memories never got better. They got worse. There were various other forms of abuse enacted on her and on her children, myself and my two younger siblings. I moved out of home as soon as could and was working full time to put myself through university when I was diagnosed with a lifetime autoimmune condition called Rheumatoid Arthritis that was going to be my constant companion for the rest of my life. Which was likely to be short due to the aggressive nature of my disease – or so the doctors told me.
So there I was, 19 years old, with a traumatic upbringing that I had not even begun to deal with mentally, with a physical condition that was, by all external accounts, going to make it pointless to strive for anything, studying to be an engineer and with no family, no friends and no support.
How did I get from that to the award-winning, published, confident leader than I am today?
I didn’t know what it was back then, resilience was just a word that I read in books; it had no relevance to me, but that is what I used. Like a muscle, I exercised that thing like I was powerlifting to rival the Terminator’s strength. I was given plenty of opportunities to practice resilience in my life, what with a degenerative and painful (is there a word that is less descriptive of what continuous pain feels like?) condition, and working in the male dominated field of construction, with a history of male and authority figure violence. I know the statistics. I am not supposed to be this women.
But that is exactly why I am this women. The powerful creation of my own making, because I refused the story I was told that was my predictable future. I refused to give up, fade away, self sabotage, be less than, be a good girl, shut up, don’t make waves and definitely don’t be so damn smart. FUCK THAT. Let me say that again. FUCK THAT SHIT.
I refuse to be less than everything I can be, because history, statistics, my disease and some people tell me that I am not supposed to be here, capable, strong, powerful, a leader, whole. I am not supposed to be comfortable with what I’ve been through and I am not supposed to be able to hold my own on a stage, a platform, a crowd, leading a project, or even in dealing with life and my disability.
It took so much for me to learn to forgive, to move on, to rise above, to be better than the story of my life. I changed the story. I will continue to write my own story and inspire other women, via the stage, via my writing, via being the best I can be and improving every day where I can.
Resilience – it is the best accessory a person can have. I carry it with me always.