Recently I was having a conversation with a prominent member of Cairns about the region and it's future when I was asked a question that left me a bit lost for words. They knew me well as I am an active member of the community and I have had several interactions with them in the past. The conversation was going so well up until that moment and then it took a dive into obscurity and the person in question actually turned away from me immediately afterwards.
And the question? 'Who are you exactly and what is it that you do?'
Sounds like an innocent enough question really and most of you would probably have a ready response involving some business contacts, a bucket-load of education and a history of great choices in an increasingly unstable world. I obviously didn't.
So, who am I then? And what exactly DO I do? Well, I still have no real answers for that one other than the truth, which in the above mentioned case, wasn't enough.
This was my response.....'I am a local woman who believes that Cairns is turning grey, lost it's colour and becoming voiceless, uninteresting and bland. I have lived here almost my entire life and have seen the changes first-hand and none of them are doing the region any favours. Businesses are floundering, tourism is stagnating and suburban life is no longer inclusive.
I work hard in my community to try and make a difference on a small scale, firmly believing that this will encourage others to become more active in their own suburban regions, having the flow-on effect that will benefit the wider community. As a member of many organisations and committees I advocate strongly for those who are too shy, too scared, uninformed or simply feel too disconnected to use their own voices. Most of the locals know me because I am everywhere and into everything and those who don't soon will.
What do I do exactly? Well, I write on my blog, I write letters, I ring people, I talk to people and I act. That's what my 'job' is. As a member of the community who wants things to improve for everyone, it's the only way to make some changes long overdue. There are several people in my area alone doing similar things which is fantastic because the more who make the effort, the better outcomes we will have.'
This was the answer I gave. It was not the answer they wanted. The next question was....'Yes, but who are you and what do you actually DO exactly?'
My further response was........'I am raising three children to be strong, conscientious, active members of the community and have a very supportive husband. My family is the main reason I am so community minded and a political being. If I can do good things now, they will all benefit later. I attend community events, forums and connect with those who have just as much interest as me in affecting change. I am a community engagement officer but without the name tag, status and pay packet.'
Still not good enough? Apparently not. What they really wanted to know was how I earn my money. I knew that, they knew that, but really....... who cares? Does that define me? Make me who I am and what I am? God, I hope not. With those parameters not many people would stand up and count themselves as important members of society.
So what do I do? Well, I work at Squeekers, the Fun Club and Cafe on the highway at Edmonton. I do it part-time and am also the new Marketing Manager (which is not as glamorous as it sounds). I really love my job. I get to interact with families from the whole region and help them have a fantastic few hours in a safe, fun and friendly environment. You simply cannot work in a place like that and be miserable.
But does it define me? No, it does not. But the answer I gave was enough to convince this person that I was largely irrelevant and not worth any more of their time.
Before I became a mother I worked in a career much higher up the social ladder but was not vocal about the needs and wants of my area at the time. I have since grown up and realised that I have the capacity to engage the community and to have an affect in it's future. I am what is commonly referred to as a 'people person', I can talk to anybody and engage in debate about the most obscure of things when required. I have good ideas, people around me have GREAT ones, and I am more than happy to be their voice. My job at Squeekers is just a job. I love it and am thankful to have one that allows me to be at home when my children come out of school but it is far from who I am .
Next time you ask someone the question -and you will- think about how you really want them to answer. Does your job define you? Perhaps you are in a career that makes a huge difference to the lives of those around us and feel it really does define you. Most of us though, just have jobs to pay the mortgage and to contribute to society and are happy if it's in a fair, enjoyable, well managed environment.
In the meanwhile, I will continue to do my 'job' for the people in the southern corridor and surrounding areas and stay secure in the knowledge that my family and community think I am a very worthwhile person to have in their corner. After all, they are the ones who really matter.