On Being One Of The Youngest In The Room: London’s State of the City Address

My first thought as I came up the escalator and joined the long line of people filing into the room was, gosh it’s too early to be alive.

My second thought? I don’t belong here.

“Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.” This is something I have been struggling with a lot lately. But as I made my way through that oh so delicious breakfast, I stopped all those negative thoughts. Why? Because I earned my way to that room just like everybody else that was there.

I bring money to this city, and I can tell you it’s a hell of a lot more than just ‘beer and pizza’.

Those 5 314 first year students Western welcomed this year? As a proud member of our very talented and dedicated residence staff teams, I’ve played an important role in welcoming and supporting many of them during their first year at this school and in this city.

I am a proud alumni of the United Way Young Leaders program, which really kickstarted my journey into venturing beyond the bubble and getting involved in the community in whatever capacity my busy on-campus/work schedule allows me to. Which isn’t as much as I would like, but I do what I can. I am proud to serve on the board of one of our wonderful non-profit organizations, and try to support other causes or events when time/budget allows.

I’m going to stop before I sound more pompous than I already do, but I recently had a great talk with someone who said it’s important to “know your worth”. That’s what helped me turn around those doubts this morning, and I internally smacked myself and said “damn right you deserve to be here and you enjoy every second of it!”. The only problem is that so many other young people doing amazing things weren’t there, and that’s what needs to change.

Maybe it’s just my introspective self, but it’s important to get youth involved in events like this because I really believe they can have an impact. I can think of 3 events in recent years that I was fortunate to attend as a young person that definitely inspired me to start taking an interest in politics and the world beyond my current spheres.

The first was attending the City of Hamilton’s inaugural meeting back in 2010, hosted at the Hamilton Convention centre. As a member of the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band, whom the former mayor was a supporter of, we played a few pieces during the ceremony. We just won’t talk about how they zoomed in on me during an extremely difficult and technical passage that is brutal for trombone players, and that all my lovely facial expressions were broadcast on live tv. The second and third events were last year’s State of the City Address, as well as Emerging Leaders’ London X.

What these events left me with was a sense of politics and city building, and simply the world beyond the spaces we have created for and restricted children and youth to, being accessible for the first time. And beyond being simply accessible, I started to believe that I could even be a part of the solutions and journey towards the future. The majority of people in those rooms (well, maybe not London X but definitely the other two) were middle aged white men, but I know and have hope that it won’t stay that way for much longer. My age and my blonde hair may make me feel a bit out of place, but I’ve learned to embrace it and be proud of fighting the norm!

Don’t underestimate the power of one event. I encourage those who are able to to invite or do what you can to make events and spaces like these accessible for young people. Don’t just bring your board or management, why not invite that recent grad who you just hired for an entry level position? Are your kids old enough to attend? Bring ’em! Have an extra spot at your table? Invite a young leader in the community. Events like this can be tricky because there’s a perception that it’s not for us, as well as the cost involved, so I encourage you to do what you can to eliminate these barriers.

If we want this city to move forward, we need everybody’s help. I left with a sense of enthusiasm and positivity about this city, and I think it’s safe to say everybody else felt the same. Let’s make sure that young people get to experience an event like this and feel the same buzz and enthusiasm I felt in the room this morning, which will help encourage them to consider London for their future and to use their skills, talents and passions to play a crucial role in helping this city become the great place I know it can be.