I think for me it has been employment and the people who you spend a great deal of your life with on a daily basis. I do not recall any one person having a profound effect on me, but I do recall learning from many.
Work commitment was discovered by me when I was first thrust into the workforce at aged 14. My first job was in a supermarket and it was really survival of the fittest. If you wanted to keep your job, you did whatever was asked of you. I had no formal training, no degrees, no experience. I had no time to think of what I wanted or desired. At that time, it was Mum, my sister and I in a flat trying to pay the rent and eat. To keep my job, I learned everything I could to be able to excel and to become what I thought was necessary and that was to be indispensable. Later in life I would discover one is never indispensable as there is always someone available to step into your shoes very quickly. It did serve me well in the beginning and a strong work ethic is still with me today.
I think another major occurrence which influenced how I developed was definitely the 60’s liberation of women. Being 16 and married in 1968 was both remarkable and difficult.There were negative people in my life with doom and gloom predictions for my future. These comments tended to instil a rebellious attitude and a need to prove them all wrong. I believed I had no choice but to think independently and to stand up for myself. I had the backing of a strong independent thinking male in my husband, so it was not hard for me to voice my opinion. I worked in an office situation in the early 70’s and the inequality of pay and workload was extreme. Men were in positions of power, influence and control. Women had to be quite blunt to be accepted and unfortunately, we had to become like the men we often worked with if we wished to gain respect within our jobs. Therefore, I had to be arrogant, entitled, and forceful. Attributes I don’t necessary like but back then it was the only way I could find to show confidence in my ability. There were many men who accepted my independence and even encouraged it however there were twice as many who did not and who wielded their power relentlessly. I do personally believe during that time a lot of women lost some of their femininity and became emotionally vulnerable during this time and hence lost a little of themselves. It became all about the power instead of the real issues of equality. As women we could not show our anxieties or our insecurities. These would be considered as a weakness in the employment world. Sadly, this is still the case for many women in the workplace today and yet men in the modern world are encouraged to show and discuss their vulnerabilities openly.
When I say friends, I am talking about those people with whom we have built strong relationships. There is a handful of which I count in this group these days. There of course are those that we thought were friends who are now not in our lives. What they have all taught me and how they have influenced me is wide and varied. Compassion, thoughtfulness, empathy, and the importance of conversation. They have taught me that it is ok to have different opinions, it is ok to have individual tastes in all things. It is not ok to judge too harshly especially without the facts. It is important to work at life, by that I mean we get caught up in our own needs and forget that others have needs also. It Is wise to look to others for support. It is very wise to listen as we all have so much to learn. I have learned to value friendships as many people pass through life with you, but true friends stay with you and support you no matter how your life changes. As we age, we realise just how important they are. Friends differ to family as they are who you choose to be around. You have no say in who is your family, but your friends are those people you want to be in your life. What I think about friendships in the environment in the modern world is that we need to work little harder at maintaining our friendships. People have everything at their fingertips today. They travel more, they try new hobbies, they get preoccupied with work and life in general. It is easy to get so wrapped up in your own life that it is easier to forget the value of others. When you become a senior your needs change considerably and you realise the absolute importance of friends.
In my case two of my dearest friends passed away over the last 12 months and I can honestly say I cannot explain it but felt both were more painful to me than the loss of family members.