Dignity

More than any other lesson taken from 2010, I understand so much more about what dignity is purely because of my experiences and relationships with others this year. I thought I’d share a little of it.

Education

I graduated from my Masters Program at the SJMC early in the year. I was frustrated in many classes and I know that in 2009, I passed much of that irritation on to my friends and family. 2010 was far better as I began to focus on my next step and built a solid thesis, of which I remain very proud. By the time I graduated, my mind was already completely entrenched in the next step for my research as well as the launch of our startup – the best outcome of a ‘challenging’ situation.

Startups don’t fund themselves, and as bootstrappers we are self-funding. For six months after graduation I worked as Program Director at Boulder Digital Works (BDW). BDW is the realization of the vision of my good friend, David Slayden. David’s vision, fortitude, stickability and bloody mule-headedness are the only reasons the program got off the ground in the face of some very virtiolic, bitter and kindergarten-like behaviour by detractors. David recognized my talents for strategic planning, production, relationship building and management, and compelled me to use them. When everyone else will have given up or quit with the great theatre that is really only the field of the creative minded, David just keeps on going. He is dignified in a way most do not have, do not understand, nor ever will. When the offer of a funded PhD place came through at ATLAS I regretfully had to move on from my formal role at BDW.

Work

This year I personally discovered there is dignity in dumpster diving in Boulder. I found that in the US, real people actually have to work in jobs that pay $4 an hour which is totally legal (WTH?), and even if they work an 80 hour week, they’d never be able to support a family on that income, and forget about paying for childcare – yet many Americans believe that people should work in those jobs and be grateful for them. I discovered that people with Masters degrees get knocked back from jobs that pay $8 an hour. I learned that things never go as fast as you want them to, unless you actually want them to take longer, and then they flash past.

I saw the reality of eviction. My neighbor told me “Everyone should be evicted at least once – it shows you’re out there doing stuff.” His words ring in my ears even now as I remember the people driving past his possessions in the front yard, slowing down to see what they could score at his misfortune while he was out trying to find what the sheriff had done with his cat. Heartbreaking. I’m fully ready for every eventuality with this startup. Next year will be crunch time with so much happening it makes my head spin. But nothing prepares you for the reality of what could be in the future like seeing someone get evicted.

Family

My mum has had a ferocious journey this year. The road of cancer is one many take, yet it remains singularly travelled, no matter how many supporters you have, nor how many fundraisers are held. Mum’s cancer is a foe met with the truest, most sincere form of bravery. This is no David and Goliath scenario, over in a minute. To say that months of chemo knocked her around is a royal understatement. Both chemo and cancer screw with your head as well as your body. Mortality becomes suddenly real instead of an ignored truth. You have bad days and good days – both physically and mentally. My mum battled all year, held strong to her faith, which actually strengthened her more in return. Her courage taught me about resilience, and how it goes hand-in-hand with dignity. I am so proud to be her daughter. The good news received the week prior to Christmas that the treatment has been working and she is able to go without chemo for the next six months is a real blessing.

Loss

This year we lost one of my dear mentors and friends, Mike Udabage. His passing was felt strongly in our home, and even the kids were saddened as Mike and Rosemary had visited us just a year ago.

Me, Mike, Rosemary and Jed in Estes Park, July 2009

We’d shared a great tour of Celestial Seasonings, trip up to Estes Park, shopping expeditions and of course, Mike’s big deal – meals. Mike was a classy man, always fast with the wit and smart with the business brains. Mike spoke at my wedding – we met when he was the general manager at ACP Computer Publications while Jed and I both worked there. He taught me many things – one of which was that there comes a time in life when you receive more from assisting others than you do claiming things for yourself. Mike also demonstrated that being dignified can also include a portion of balanced irreverance. I am sad that I was unable to travel to the funeral, but Jed went and spoke, and our friend Richard Walsh related a story or two of mine on my behalf. Mike will continue to be sadly missed and always hold a very special place in our hearts.

Finally

Dignity is an elusive beast for many. This year I spoke at the Mom 2.0 Summit, including my views on Active Voice Blogging, and I wrote a book chapter on Social Media Literacy with my dear friend Mark Gammon. I also wrote a thesis about mom bloggers that wasn’t completely filled with butterflies and flowers.

Annie and I at BlogHer in New York

It was no coincidence that my friend and conference roommate Annie won the most controversial blogger award at this year’s BlogHer as well (I tease her about saying she’s the most irritating, but gee she’s someone who stands up for what she says, and cops the punches on the chin with true dignity). These experiences showed me that being in the spotlight brings its own challenges to being dignified. I realised that dignified behaviour often calls for keeping selectively silent – a quality not embraced often enough. Yet it is also something that comes from sharing and being opinionated. Dignity comes through the way you choose to create your reality, and how you interact with others. I know the path to dignity is one where you choose your battles, ignore those who don’t matter, monitor your media, and stand by those you love and who love you (as friends, or more). When you do that, dignity is yours.

I wish you all a fantastic 2011.

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