Maddy is another wonderful person that I have had the pleasure of meeting through Growing Happy. I have often felt guilty for my privilege but having spoken to Maddy I have come to see that being grateful for a privileged upbringing and the opportunities it provides is important. But of greater importance is what you do with your solid foundation, how you make change happen and how you impact others.
The Wonder of Being Alive
I didn’t really become aware of where I sat in the world compared to everyone else until quite late on in life. I had two articulate, loving parents and two brothers who I rarely spoke to until they started bringing friends home with them! I now see how that upbringing and home life made everything so much easier for me. That’s the main reason I feel so grateful to have recently had a job that enabled me to focus on social mobility and equality. When I was young there were loads of jobs around and I had a marvellous time. I lived in different flats in London and met many people. But when I look back, they were all mostly from the same backgrounds as me. I think the eye opener for me was working at British Airways as cabin crew. There were so many different people, but we all had the same focus: working on the aircraft, looking after people. That was very levelling. The airline was still mostly white, well-spoken young women when I joined in the ‘70s but gradually over time it became much more diverse, and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet so many people and travel the world.
Leaving the multi-cultural world of BA behind I became more aware of living in a predominantly white, wealthy part of the UK. Various ‘life events’ happened, and I needed to go back to full time work and the new IT company that offered me a role was a very different environment. When I arrived there 10 years ago, one of the first things I was aware of was the many different nationalities and ethnicities working there. Just people with a passion for IT and the aptitude and attitude to do well, regardless of background. IT is a relatively new industry and doesn’t seem to have the old boy’s network of so many jobs. Companies have also started to recognise that if you don’t have diversity in your design and development teams, everything is designed by the few with unintended consequences for customers. I saw on YouTube a man in a washroom who was trying to get soap out of the soap dispenser. It wouldn’t work but when his friend put his hand underneath it, the soap came out. The difference? The first man had dark skin and the second man had pale skin. So, the little chip in the soap dispenser was set up to only give soap to people who were the same as the developers themselves. Lack of thought and lack of diversity.
By becoming aware of how much I am grateful for has made space for reflection. We may forget the wonder of being alive and be caught up in things that are mundane. Yoga and meditation have changed and challenged me. I have my best friend to thank for introducing me to yoga and my brilliant yoga teacher, as I was a reluctant pupil! I wanted instant results but now I can see the benefits both physically from yoga and in the freedom of meditation. Five years later I am on my yoga mat every day during this period of isolation and it is such a treat. I am much stronger now. My intention is to feel emotions and recognise them for what they are, and hopefully not react. When I’m unhappy I think about all the millions of people who feel the same as me at that moment. I find that a comforting thought, the shared experience. I can go to my mat with so many thoughts of things I must do, how I will talk to someone later, how unfair something was, and for an hour and a half all of that is left behind, nothing to do but be. I am in my body and not in my mind.
Meditation has given me insight into the patterns that I use in life, and what caused them. I recognise how much I have to be grateful for. So maybe think about your life and what you have to be grateful for. Have a think about privilege - speaking clearly at an interview, with confidence, talking about your gap year, maybe, and your degree. If you go home to a family or friends and have a laptop and somewhere quiet to study or relax. We are each shaped by our lives and being mindful of yours may help you reflect on gratitude because, after all, it’s what we do with our privilege, that is important. It’s about sharing our solid foundation to help others to move forward.
Through this project we hope to tell the stories of many different people and celebrate a multitude of perspectives. If you would like to share your story with us, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending us a dm on Instagram @growinghappyuk