Washing machines, cafe shelves, and self-worth.


Musings on adulting, and the way we evaluate the value and worth of other humans.

Our washing machine door is stuck shut, we have been taking it in turns all week trying to force it open. The weather is really warm at the moment, so I ‘m grumpily aware that the damp towels inside the machine are slowly being destroyed by mold, and our mount washmore is growing #FirstWorldProblemsToTheMax Clever hubby watched a Youtube clip on how to dismantle the door, we had a brief moment of hope, then realised it required a special ‘bit’ for the drill which we do not have. Hope lost. We gave up and went out for an early family breakfast. It can wait.

While we were at breakfast, Hubby was staring at the racks which hold the water station in the cafe. He made a comment about the way the shelf was structured. It sounded like a very ‘simple’ comment, and I honestly do not really care about furnishings and built structures, but knowing my partner as well as I do, I was aware that his comment was informed, deep and rich so I gave it my attention. Because that is what we do, we evaluate and judge people, subjects, everything, so we can assess whether to give it time, thought and brain energy. So as I sat there with my coffee, thinking about what my Husband had said, I ended up having a little light bulb moment. A few thoughts I had been dwelling on lately, finally clicked together.

For the past five years I have had the privilege of watching my Husband’s career bloom, and, in a way, the most incredible thing for me has been the way some people around him were noticeably surprised by his success. His value was so obvious to me, from when we first met in a video store some 12 years ago, to when we became a couple five years ago. So why were other people unable to see it? I have been realising as a teacher, as a researcher, as a student myself that often a person’s communication style, how loud they are, how quick or slow they are to respond in conversation, the way they spend their time, the language conventions they use, a multitude of factors can impact whether we ‘allow’ a person to have ‘value’. This is important in teaching, I am very mindful of this when in that role, but I had not consciously considered this in a personal sense before. I have been dwelling in this more and more lately, the way sometimes the ‘academic’ world, the classroom, seems very separate to ‘the real world’ where we drink coffee, and swim, and chase our kids around. The more I applied the theory and thinking I have at work, to my life, the more I reflected on my Husband’s educational and career journey.

A bit of a backstory, my Husband was asked to leave High School in year ten, having been told that he was bringing down the grade average for his year. He describes this as crushing to his self belief, he did as he was asked, and left – so at 16 he became a full-time cleaner. He did this for years, and in a funny twist of fate ended up cleaning the Department of Education offices, and it was a Minister’s assistant who eventually took the time to speak to him, noticing that as a well spoken young man it seemed ‘unusual’ that his full time work would be in cleaning. My Husband was honest, he explained that he had left High School in year ten, so had no qualifications. He believed that cleaning, or other ‘unskilled’ work were his only options. This was the moment when my Husband was first told about University enabling programs. This new knowledge changed my Husbands trajectory, it changed his life.

When I think about this, I note that someone had taken the time to notice him, to observe him, and to inform him of the fact that he had options. And that really is the point, options. If cleaning gives you joy, or meets your needs in a way that you choose it, then that is wonderful, and valid, and worthy. But my husband had no joy there, he was there because he thought he had no other choice. When the truth was, he had a wealth of options, but no one had ever helped him to see this. I am so grateful, so thankful to that person for noticing my Husband, and taking the step to talk to him. My Husband entered University via the Open Foundation enabling program, at the University of Newcastle. He graduated, and enrolled in Architecture. He committed, he strived, and seven years later he graduated with a Masters in Architecture at the University of New South Wales. He now lives his passion, and has joy, and success in ways he once thought were going to be denied him.

Now days, people generally see, acknowledge, and give space for my Husband to have value. They ‘see’ it and honor it based on his job, his qualifications, his age, his style of dress etc. But his value was there when he was that 15 year old student, struggling with the assessments and classwork of High School. His value was there while he was a cleaner, scrubbing garage platforms, and emptying bins in the Department of Education.

When I think of my role as an academic, I think of my Husband as a teenager. I see the students through that lens. But I need to actively extend this thinking, so that when I think of the people I cross paths with in my varying roles, from being a Mother, a shopper, a member of society outside of the University, I need to think of and remember how one individual giving my Husband time, and acknowledging his value at that vulnerable time, changed his life. This in turn changed my life, our children’s lives, our family have been positively impacted and shaped because someone took time to acknowledge the value that was there.

Not a bad light bulb moment, for a slow start drinking coffee on a Friday morning.

Have a good weekend loves x



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