Reflections on 25%, Mentorship, and Why I Freaking Love London

I’ve been meaning to write something like this for a while, and I feel like London needs a bit of positivity and love today. I also have pretty much an entire conference poster presentation to put together in the next few days, and a ton of conceptual stuff I should be working on for my 4th year honours research project, so obviously I’m searching for/creating other things to do instead.

If you didn’t go to the premiere of the 25% then you missed out. It really drove home the point of how important it is to get women, especially young women, involved in politics and to work to remove the systemic barriers preventing that from becoming a reality. It was also incredibly inspirational, and I’m not afraid to admit that I was almost in tears at one point, which is saying something because I don’t usually do the whole ‘showing emotions’ thing. It’s a tough world for young people these days, and it’s even tougher as a young woman. I like to be in leadership positions, I have big career ambitions, and as a result I am all too familiar with the struggles of what comes alongside these supposedly good things. I also play trombone so I am well aware of the difficulties of being a woman in male-dominated environments. I have to work harder to gain the same respect and recognition as men, and when I do then I’m not ‘liked’ as much. Issues with my professional performance turn into attacks on who I am as a person, yet if a man does the same thing it is simply attributed to him “just doing his job”. I’m feisty and I refuse to give up despite these challenges, but unfortunately that’s not the same for many women, and frankly I don’t blame them. Sometimes I still wonder if the fight will be worth it, or if the old boys club will keep holding up that glass ceiling.

The importance of mentorship came up a lot in 25%, and I really cannot stress the importance of this. There is so much value in being able to learn someone else’s story, to gain inspiration and ideas and learn from their mistakes. Mentorship offers a person to bounce your own ideas and dreams off of, to help clarify your own thoughts, to gain some direction on how to make your dreams a reality, and to form connections to build the paths and bridges to take you there. But mentorship doesn’t even have to be a formal arrangement or career oriented. To me, mentorship is about sharing, about recognition, and about mutual learning. It’s saying that “I care about what you have to say, despite your age”.  Mentorship is saying ” I want to share what I know with you, and I want to know what you can share with me.”

So where does the “I Freaking Love London” part come in? Well London, what I talked about above is what you’ve done for me and it’s precisely why this city has captured my heart. No matter where I end up, London will always have a special place in my heart.

A lot of people are coming to mind as I write this. I’m not going to mention names, for fear of leaving anybody out and also because it would get way too long. There’s no words to describe how much it means when I meet someone from twitter for the first time in real life and am greeted with a hug, or when someone is willing to take time out their busy schedule to meet for a coffee. Over the past year, I’ve worked to slowly break from the western bubble and make connections in the community, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the welcoming and supportive people I’ve met along the way. I still consider turning around at the door before going to events out in the community, and you may be able to tell by the look on my face that I still find it a bit terrifying, but I’ve never regretted opening that door and walking in.

I am often asked what I think of London and if I’m planning on staying after I graduate. Obviously, for myself and others it ultimately comes down to employment and whether I can afford to stay here. But what I will say is that I am going to do my best to stay (sorry Mom), at least for a little while, because I still have so much to learn from the people in this city.

Never forget the value that even one conversation can have, and I encourage you to reach out to young people to give them a bit of help in navigating this crazy thing called life. Try to remember what it was like to be young and out in the adult-world for the first time. Now compare that to your expectations of young people today, do they match up? Doubt it. Lend us a helping hand (a job would be cool too, just throwing that out there), and make the most of the influence that you have. Because you DO have influence, a lot more than you probably think, and it’s what’s helped to make this city an amazing place. Thank you for what you’ve already done for me and so many others, it really is true that “the people” are what make this city so amazing.