Last night, I went to an art show for an old friend’s husband. My friend and I worked together over 20 years ago in a small industrial union. When she was fired by leaders who were threatened by her activism in the women’s movement, I resigned. After 6 years, I had had enough. I loved the job but could not take the stress of working for leaders who were such terrible managers. I spent another five years working on contract for the labour movement but lost all of my work when a right wing party came to power in Ontario. That was a turning point in my life. I ended up working for the public health and municipal sectors and have been doing so for 18 years now. But last night, I got a glimpse of the life I left behind.
After the art show, I went to dinner with my friend, her husband, and four of their friends. They are all active in the labour movement in some way. One is actually the leader of a national union. These people are thoughtful, well-informed and passionate. They speak openly about actively working to transform society. These people, who are all my age or older, talked about forming coalitions with environmentalists, First Nations, the unemployed and the underemployed. It was inspiring. It was encouraging. I came home feeling that those who want a just and equitable society have not collapsed under the weight of a right-wing swing in Canadian politics and a global economic system that has decimated Canada’s industrial sector.
Last night, I did not feel alone with my concern about the direction of our country. I felt like I was part of something bigger. And I have not felt that way for a long time. While many people in the municipal and public health sectors are working to transform society, we do so within the system. We do so with words chosen carefully. We do so with scientific, technical and economic evidence. We do so behind the scenes without ever seeing the faces of the people who might benefit from our work, without recognition for the work we do, and without a sense of community. It is often tiring, thankless and lonely work.
While it often felt the same working within the union, I also had the feeling that I was part of a team. I liked that I knew the people who might benefit from my work; I liked that our members knew I was working for them. I liked being part of a larger movement; a movement that, despite all of its in-fighting, spoke openly about fighting for justice, equity and improving the lives of working people. I miss that.
I came home last night wondering if I made a wrong turn somewhere. I have had several job offers from unions over the years but I have turned them down because I did not want to work 50 hour weeks, travel one week out of four, or move back to Toronto while raising my kids. Was that wrong? Would I do differently if I had the chance? I don’t think so. But there is a small whole in my heart for the life I did not choose.
Kim, lovely post. I think that the question that comes up probably points less to the unanswerable did-I-take-the-best-road inquiry (can’t imagine you would have wanted to raise your children working more and being there less) but rather points to a current need for more community- community that is mutually working together for the things you value in our shared life. And, given the age/stage of your children (going out into the world)- that need seems to be right on schedule from where I sit. Now, to find the places where that desire for co-creating with others can be met (so many possibilities.) Lots to explore- may you find the place where your dreams are welcomed and shared, and where. . . . the mutual conversations continue to inspire and feed your heart, Oriah
Hi Oriah…I have been thinking that as well,…It may be that my new job, which requires coordinating peer support for 50 members from 20 organizations across the country, provides me with some of that. One of the 50 members suggested to me last week that we are re-defining working relationships with our partnership; that we will build relationships though phone calls, teleconference,e-mails and social media, that we used to do in person. We will see!! Kim
I think we all wonder about the paths not chosen. There’s certainly an amount of compromise – and I guess, loneliness – that comes with ‘working in the belly of the beast’. Society needs both the people on the inside and out for change to happen. Neither is easy. Glad you had a moment to reconnect with like minds.
Thanks….it was nice…and you are right, neither is easy, and both are needed. Kim
Alarna is right. We all look back and wonder, “What if?” It’s a nostalgia thing, I guess. I love the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” because it lets us see what would happen if just one man hadn’t lived as he did. I think it’s the same with all of us; we may not see the people we touched or how things would be different if we weren’t here, but lives would be very different in so many ways. Who knows? Maybe just one talk we had with a child changed his course that day and saved his/her life. Most important, I think, is that we wouldn’t be who we are today, with the wisdom gained through our experiences. Celebrate you, Kim, and exactly where you are. All is perfect. :)
Hi Pam….Wow, it is interesting; your comments about how we touch people are really similar to some that were channelled to me recently by a Psychic from “my guardians”. Uncannily similar! I too love that movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and a modern adaptation of it called “The Family Man” with Nicholas Cage, was the source of the phrase “A Glimpse”, that I used in this post. Thank you for your kind words. I feel the same way about you, although I wish you could be who you are without the health issues!! With Love….Kim
Often we walk along our various paths Kim, and wonder did we make the right choices.. But I think we did or else we wouldnt have made them..
Being part of a team is important… and I think if we condense that feeling as a whole.. the world has gone its separate ways, We no longer know our neighbours in our neighbourhoods, We feel we are alone… And thats what needs to change..
We need to get back that community Spirit and pool our ideas and resources… and pull together instead of pulling apart….
Union is a good word.. We all of us need to Unify…. to become more united…
I belong to one… and its good to know you have its backing if needed…
Great thought provoking post Kim..
Thanks sue…At 55, I have done some thinking about the many ways in which the world has changed in the course of my life. There are some changes, at least in Canada, that I know are wonderful; our kids don’t drink and drive; they are less homophobic; there are fewer limitations on people based on gender and race. But there are things that worry me; and loss of a sense of community is definitely one of them. And sometimes, the loss of a sense of family, because we are all so busy working and commuting and playing video games and watching movies…this is a conversation that will continue….Kim
I will look forward to that conversation, Kim.
i’m sure you have a thing or two to say about it as well…the other one is sex. I sometimes wonder if we have lost the war as feminists; there is so much pressure on young woman to “hook up” (i.e have sex with no commitment) and to look perfect. Where did we go wrong?? Kim
I think we lost touch with nature and the deep sense of love and gratitude we feel when connected. That connection causes a sense of respect for all and for self.
It’s not just that we go too fast; I trhink it happened before the 20th Century. I wish we knew the answers… :)
Hi Pam…I think I see what you are saying. We are so remove from things that we have forgotten what they mean…we don`t think of the animal that gave its life when eat meat for example. Kim
I think there is no right and wrong path, just our divine path. Ask yourself here in the ‘now’ would you like to work in a union again? were you shown this experience so that spirit can reassure you that life is not doom and gloom, that there are people out there helping. Maybe its a marker that you should look for things at home to do that can help others?
We cannot dwell or change the past, but in the now we can decide to change our future. Did this feel like a message from your guides? or just something you had to witness to lift your spirits ?
Hi..Good questions Jess. I think it was a message about what I want in my life; but I think it is not to work for a union but to have that experience of working with people where I have a sense of community. So, it was the essence of that particular experience in the union. When I think back, there were many unhealthy and stressful things about working for the union, and good reasons to leave. Kim