Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

The way my mind works…

I found an old Erma Bombeck book on my pile from my mum’s house. It’s about mothers. She makes the point quite clearly that, although everyone tries so hard to be THE PERFECT MOTHER, there is no such thing – everyone who ever had a child is thrust into a job for which they are just about completely unqualified (‘female’ doesn’t necessarily qualify one for doing the job of mother effectively) and which must be the job with the most ‘on-the-job’ training.

This has sparked a thought that I’ve had for a while. It’s about someone who becomes a Motivational Speaker. It seems that the most important qualification for this job is to have experienced some earth-shattering change in life: an accident that rendered the person limbless, or paralysed, or the like; a wonderful business opportunity that ‘just happens’ and turns the person into  the most successful entrepreneurial success story ever; a battle with a deadly disease.

What, I have wondered, if there is someone in the world, just an ordinary, everyday, physically whole and abled person who is not remarkably wealthy, or even desperately poor, who is not a successful business person – and who is not really better than anyone else in the world who is interested in this job. (Except those, of course, who have the ‘right’ qualifications for ‘Motivational Speaker’). What happens, though, if that ordinary person also has something to share, can also inspire those very like them, or who just knows that life is not about extremes, but is really about the ordinary, every day ‘daily round and common task’: that surviving that day-by-day – and coming out the other end of each day even partly human is the real challenge of life.

What happens if that someone is like me, I suppose, or you – or the guy down the road.

I can imagine if I were to go for the job interview:

INTERVIEWER:        What position are you applying for?
ME:                                   Uh…motivational speaker.
INTERVIEWER:        Ooh. Well, what are your qualifications and
experience for this position?
ME:                                   Uh – I’m a woman.
INTERVIEWER:        Yes, and?
NE:                                   Well, I’m married.
(No comment)
ME:                                 I work.
INTERVIEWER:      (A spark of interest.  A very damp spark.) Full-time?
ME:                                Well, no. I work part time. (Suddenly perking up.)
But I have about three jobs.
INTERVIEWER:     (No response. Then a twitch of the eyebrow.) What                                              else?
ME:                                I have four children.
INTERVIEWER:     Hmmm, that may be something…
ME:                               (Quickly, perhaps too quickly.) I have ADHD!
INTERVIEWER:     (A momentary, fleeting expression of interest.)
Perhaps we – No, that’s too
mainstream. Every second person has some form                                           of attention issues.
                                         (A thought.) You’re not disabled, are you? Or
anything else?
ME:                                We-e-ll, I wear glasses because I’m shortsighted.
INTERVIEWER:     (The expression clearly says, “Be real!”)

This is it. I can see the interest, as slight as it was, waning quicker than the level of ice cream in the box when my four children discover we really do have some in the house.

Now is the time to play my trump card. Now is the time to declare: “Oh – I have cancer.” It would be out there – the deadly ‘C’ word, that I have discovered recently has a whole range of meanings and understandings. And implications.

If I say it, though, suddenly I would be elevated into that exclusive bracket: those who actually have the qualifications to be a Motivational Speaker.

But I’d still be me. Cancer or not, I am still just an everyday woman, with ADHD and four children. I do work part-time (at about 3 different jobs) and my only vague stab at not being completely ‘abled’ is myopia.

Cancer or not, I’m still me. If the ordinary me is not qualified to speak to others like me, then why would cancer make me suitable?

I can imagine the end of the job interview:

INTERVIEWER:        Do you have any other qualifications?
ME:                                 (Opening mouth to confess. Then, standing, with a                                                  little smile.) No, I guess not. (Leaves)

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