It's always worth trying
I rebelled since childhood. At the beginning it was a fight for the younger and the weaker. I couldn't stand that someone had been unfairly judged, I defended that person, tried to show the truth.
I rebelled about the treatment of girls and boys. I didn't understand why girls would have worse or better conditions than boys. What irritated me the most was following this pattern: when a boy starts chasing, the girl runs away, always screaming. I was thinking: why are you running away? Turn around and say you don't want him to chase you. Then issues with crossing borders came: patting the butt, pulling bras, it annoyed me terribly. In primary school, one of my friends got a slap in the face, it was like action-reaction. He patted, I turned around and did the same.
I rebelled against teacher responses to students. I remember primary school teachers who we were terrified of. It always turned on a light on the back of my head: it shouldn't be like this. I didn't know how it should be, but something was growing inside, I wanted to go and say that they were wrong, they can't treat people like that. But the fear totally blocked me. Complete paralysis, I could say nothing.
When I finished primary school, my teacher told me: “Barbara, you go to basic school, don't try anything further.” She knew I wanted to go to medical high school, but because of poor marks she didn't recommend me. Some time later I went to medical high school with my dad, I remember standing in front of the gate and hesitating to the last moment whether to submit the papers. I turned around, looked at my dad and asked: “Are you sure?” He replied that I would not know if I did not try. “If you feel it, go.” And I went. It turned out that there was no nursing class I was hoping for. So I asked what was the choice: child care specialization. I was going through a big crisis as in my family we were expecting a 15 years younger brother. It fell on me like a thunder from heaven and I say: “Oh no, children - I will not embrace children, I do not like them.” I hesitated, but then I just decided to let it be. When my brother was born everything switched 180 degrees. My parents showed me: “This is Dominik.” I felt a great warmth, wow, this is something amazing. This is how my social adventure began. The high school I went to also focused on helping others, we had a lot of contact with kids in various situations. The internships were in nurseries, but also in orphanages and adoption departments. It gave me a lot. The time had come to decide what to do next - whether to keep studying or not. Finally, I went to post-graduate school for emergency medicine.
I have always thought that nothing happens without a reason. After school, I wanted to apply to the emergency medical unit. The man who received my papers said:
- But we won't accept you.
- Because you're a woman.
- Because ... pregnancy, breaks at work, you can't bear heavy stuff ...
For the first time I met with such a discrimination. My mother always believed in equality. In my family, my dad and mum did a lot of different things, my mother was able to fix the socket, and it was natural for us, my father cooked, ironed, laundered, there was nothing surprising in it. After the conversation I left the place angry at this injustice, I submitted my papers for studies, I finished the pedagogical faculty.
The change began with a white door
While still a student I was working, sometimes in a nursery, sometimes in a kindergarten. The latter showed me how easy it is to burn out in such a close system, which doesn't care about people. It states that the child is on the first place, it is the supreme value, but in practice paper counts, and everything can be done, as long as it looks good in papers. I remember such pain inside and talking to a friend next door. The group in which I worked was separated by a white door from other groups. And I use to say that the change started with this white door. At one point my friend opened it and said: “Barbara, I can't take it anymore, let's do something.”
“Let's do it!”, I answered. We set up a foundation. This was actually the most important turning point for me: the decision to exit the system, a very strong, very lively decision. For a long time in my family there were discussions about full-time job, about benefits and security that come with it. If this job was in addition for an indefinite period of time, then you could have some stabilization. And I consciously gave it up. The moment when you get offered a permanent contract and you say “No, thank you” it gives you a sense of power. You go ahead.
And ahead there was EduKABE Foundation, workshops with children, adults, but mainly with youth. We talk a lot. About cyberbullying, sex education, ourselves and future. I try to show them a different perspective. I often use a paper exercise, consisting of five stages. Each step we fold the paper in half and we tear off the upper right corner. Then, we open the pages and compare the mosaics. None of them is ever the same. It all depends on the position of the paper, how we rotate it, if we fold it horizontally or vertically. Everyone has his or her own perspective. Maybe young people, sometimes from difficult environments, can't yet see certain things in perspective, but it is possible. Not everyone gets strongly involved in the exercise, but there are always a few people for whom I can see that a process has begun, they understood. Something changed in their face, in their body language. Maybe they will come back to this moment one day.
Another white door in my life is the moment when, together with Mariusz, we decided to have a child, 11 years ago. When Zuzia came out, many things stopped. I could look at myself and others from a distance. Now I can say that from rebellion, through a milder phase, came understanding and focus on conversation, on other people. We don't have to fight.
I tell people they are cool
Every day I say to men and women that they are cool. We recently went with my daughter to a skate park. Two girls on roller skates came. One easy-going, able to do whatever, the other clumsy, unconfident. She suddenly turned towards me, and I said: “Try, with small steps”. “Thank you”, she replied. “Don't thank, try it. You managed? Try a little more, try again”. I approached her at the end again and said: “Don't give up. If you give up, you won't see what you can do. Come tomorrow and try again”. That's what I do, I talk to people. Someone passes and says: “You look great”. And I add: “Tell her she is smart too”.
Once my sister and I went for a pizza and an extremely warm, polite waitress served us. I asked to talk to the manager. I told him to appreciate this person because she is wonderful and although I guess her earnings are not adequate, he should at least appreciate her every day. The girl had tears in her eyes. These are the things I love to do.
Or a few days ago I heard a mother talking with a child:
“Mum, look, there are pigeons there. Do you remember how they attacked me?”
“Yes, because you always go where you shouldn't.”
I thought one sentence can really change the way she looks at herself so terribly. I turned to the girl:
“You know what, I think you were a bit of a cat for these pigeons, and cats like to go wherever they want. I guess you just ended up as a cat at the pigeon party and they didn't recognize you.”
I don't know if the mother understood. But I saw that the girl nodded and smiled. Maybe she understood it. The sharp message “You always go where you shouldn't!” given at this stage of life can block her forever. She will remember that she has to stick to the path that is designated for her, only this way you can go from point A to point B. What if she dreams about point C, where you need to find a new way?
I don't really analyse my reactions. It flows rather from intuition. I feel that I should go and say something, so I do it. Maybe there is simply nothing to think about. It's a waste of life, thinking - go or not go, say or not say. It cost me nothing and maybe this person won't meet anyone today who tells: “You are doing great”.
You'll die. This is a fact
I try to take care of people at different levels. For example, our two wonderful employees of the District Library, I always bring them some books, reports, posters. And sometimes they recommend me something to read. Recently one of them said: “I have something for you.” She puts a book in front of me, Warsztaty umierania [Workshops on dying] by Katarzyna Boni. I thought it would probably be pessimistic, but I took it.
This is one of the most beautiful books I've read. It gives hope. I took at least 6 exercises from it to work with young people.
For example, we are talking about a bowl of rice. There is a story in this book: you go to parents you have not seen for a long time, you are very connected with them, you write, call, solve various problems remotely. You come and they give you rice. You know rice is important to them, it's the only thing they have and can offer you. And recently in the place they live there was a failure in the nuclear power plant. Will you eat it or not? There are always a lot of discussions around this type of moral dilemmas. Another exercise: you get 10 cards, on each you write one important thing in your life. Then you start reading the story of a woman who finds out she has cancer. After each passage you have to decide which of these things you discard, which has lesser value. Ultimately, it turns out that maybe a good job, money, phone are not as important as building relationships, being with people.
I learned a lot about death from my daughter. Some time ago my grandmother died, later my grandfather. Their death was talked about at home and I remember that Zuzia asked the question one evening: “Mum, will I die too?” On my chest, my heart totally blocked. I thought how can I answer this question without lie, because we have never done it. I said: “Yes, one day yes.” “Oh,” my daughter said. I thought the topic was over. A few days later she asked again: “Mum, will you die as well?” These were some of the most beautiful and important conversations. I had to deal with my emotions and fears. It was Zuzia who made me tame death. For a long time I thought about death as something you don't talk about, you don't even think about, as it will never happen. But that's not true. You'll die. This is a fact. You can be afraid of it, but what for? You don't have a say on that. But you can choose not to miss your life, to get the most out of it. Experience valuable lessons such as jumping in a puddle, running in the morning dew, rolling downhill. Unrestrained, not sticking to predefined frames. Be able to feel the moment when you are free. Sometimes you need one sunset. Sometimes one quarrel. A conversation. Eating a good apple, warmed from the sun. It is also important to live in harmony with each other every day. Wake up, look at my husband, daughter, sit in the kitchen with my sister, brother, mother, brother-in-law in the warmth of the stove. It feels great, that's what I want. I think it is has a meaning who we share our life with. I have a feeling that we are able to create a nice family with space for anger, sadness and happiness. There is also room for this “jumping-over-puddles” moments. And going out at 10pm on the balcony, if my daughter has such a need, because the stars are shining nicely. This moment is important. And saying that you can. If I could, I would let people hear it 24/7: You can do it! I know that some people have headphones in their ears for various reasons and won't listen. But it's always worth trying.
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