Just because everyone is doing it, do you have to?

Many of my learnings come through conversations. I wanted to share a recent one I had with my friend and mentor Adela. 

Adela’s been a role model of mine since I was 18. I’ve looked up to her and seek her guidance at pivotal points of my life. The first time we met was in my university’s career centre where she was, and still is, one of their Assistant Deans. 

We were chatting about a program I was working on to support entrepreneurial students on campus called eHub. She loved the idea. “Jay students need to be more entrepreneurial. That is the future. That is how we will prepare them for their careers.” A fun partnership started there.

Her mentorship turned into a friendship. I remember having dinner with her one evening at a Vancouver restaurant called Cactus Club. I asked her what I can do to best help my university once I graduated.

“Help the young women that are coming into the university Jay. Support the 18 to 20-year-olds that are looking for guidance and need a leg up. Don’t neglect the guys, but prioritize the women. They need your mentorship more then the men do”. That mindset has stuck with me and guided my decision making since.

Adela reached out a few weeks ago to see how I was doing. We set up a time to chat, 6:30 pm on Tuesday. I put in my AirPods and gave her a call for my daily walk-and-talks.

Adela is a 41-year-old Slovakian woman with a light accent. She approaches every conversation with energy. She’s passionate about her stories and speaks no bullshit, which is why I think I sought out her friendship.

We jumped right in. We spoke about her life as a single woman. I asked her if it’s hard being single with no family; doesn’t she feel the pressure to settle down and have kids? I had to ask.

“It’s important to challenge narratives that everyone around you thinks is true. Just because everyone is buying a new car, do you have to? Just because everyone is buying a home, do you have to? Just because everyone is getting married, do you have to? Plus, I have so many kids I take care of at school! I also have a loving group of friends and I feel like my needs are met. If I find a partner, that’s great. But I’m not in need of one.” There was not an ounce of doubt in her voice. It was a refreshing outlook on marriage and long term relationships.

Adela shares with me that the pandemic reminds her of her childhood. She says that growing up in Soviet Union was similar to life today.

Adela’s family had a curfew, they had to ration their food, and you couldn’t travel across borders. Their government had a large influence on their lifestyle which limited her freedom, and the pandemic was triggering feelings she had as a child.

“Soviet life was portrayed as a bleak series of deprivations. We pictured people grimly standing in line to get into grocery stores. There was political deprivation as well. Soviets knew that their leaders lied to them, and they knew that noting the truth would lead to retribution. Meanwhile, public gatherings were looked upon with suspicion, and displays of artistic expression were closely monitored.” – Source.

Remnants of Soviet life can be seen around the world today. Folks don’t have the money to put food on the table. People are waiting outside in long lines at food banks. Citizens are questioning if their leaders are telling the truth. And public gatherings are closely monitored.

Adela tells me that freedom is a beautiful thing and that we take it for granted in the West. Adela reminds me that we live in a society that is free and not to forget that once things get back to normal. To remember that for many people around the world that is not a privilege they have. It’s a privilege to have a government that speaks to you clearly. Large public gatherings will happen once again.

Let’s appreciate our freedom. Well, that freedom that we don’t really have right now, but we can feel coming back. It’s a special thing.

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