While I was in Canada at a conference this year, I had a moment where just six of the participants and speakers decided to create our own break out session and digest what we’d gone over so far at the sessions.
One of the women there was from Ukraine, moved to Canada and had a son in high school. She was now a successful director of HR at a non-profit and was one of the most soft-spoken, humble women I’d ever met.
She was speaking of the hardship of getting her son into a school and the difficulties he faced due to the culture and language barrier. She spoke of the difficulties of not wearing what was “required” to an interview in Canada, when she had worn what she considered her best attire in her home country.
She spoke of the difficulties of being turned down and being placed in entry-level positions due to her accent, though she had higher degrees and was a professional in her field.
After 10 years of struggling up the corporate ladder (ten years, guys), she has finally made it to HR director and loves her position. She humbly said that she does not have ill will towards any of her bosses over the years, but that she knew if she stayed humble and persevered and worked hard that she would eventually get the job she deserved.
Every day when she had to dress differently and leave her whole self at home to fit a role in a job she was overqualified for, she would ask herself “what am I leaving at home today when I go to work?” She asked her son the same question about going to school. Then she decided that enough was enough and she needed to be the catalyst in building cultural bridges in her workplace and in her son’s school. After years of not being herself, she was finally ready to put in the extra work and reach out to build understanding among those that were rejecting her and her son.
Her motto was “do it with peace, never give up.” She tells her son that when he is teased or a teacher does not understand why he acts a certain way (aka according to his culture). She does not wish to proliferate hatred among people, but peace. And the best way to do that is to do everything with peace and never give up.
These words resonated with me, and I like to apply them to my daily life and individual struggles. I also like to think about how I bend myself to “fit” certain perceptions of how I should act in certain situations.
How much of yourself do you leave at home when you go _____________? Refuse to mold, refuse to bend, but also refuse to generate hatred and tension because of your differences. Take a humble approach: do it with peace, and never give up.