When we started this campaign, and I sat down to write a blog. I’ll level with you, I struggled with it. How can I write a blog about being positive when I’m not feeling particularly shiny and happy?
The theme behind our campaign is that actions, however big or small, can translate into meaningful and effective changes for many, and you can translate this in many ways. Actions first have to be voiced, and I think my part of this story is to tell you how important your voice is.
Ensuring every voice is heard has been something of a mission of mine, and especially in the current climate, I still firmly believe in. Not just within nursing but in your life outside work.
There are still parts of my story I cannot yet share, but there are parts, I think, if I take a deep breath, and put on my big girl pants, I can. Not only to put my proverbial ‘money where my mouth is’ but in the hope that it proves a voice is a voice, no matter how small. The snippets I’ll choose to make this point may not be chronological, so you’ll have to stay with me.
Never underestimate the effect of your words on another. Your words may not always receive a response. But do not doubt that they are heard. Several years ago, a small voice anonymously posted a tweet on a theme of overcoming battles, in which she voiced how during her first year of studying to become a nurse she had become a single parent since leaving an abusive relationship after nine years, and how she was thankful to be nearing her third year. The outpouring of voices and support from this tweet was overwhelming and motivated the anonymous tweeter to believe she could indeed carry on.
I know this: because that person was me. And this goes a short way to explain my passion for ensuring every voice is heard. During this time, I was not the loudest in class, not someone who would speak out. This does not mean I wasn’t passionate about becoming a nurse, about learning, about creating a better home life.
I’m not telling you this for sympathy and violins (because quite honestly, violins aren’t my cup of tea and it would be much more of a kick in the teeth than a remedy). My voice was small, at times barely a whisper, but it mattered. And the words of others affected me massively.
A team, whether that be an immediate work team, a friendship group or an online community, is made up of different voices and different personalities, and it is made all the better for being so. These voices don’t all have to agree, but they do have to be heard. If we make this solely about work for a second – think about an emergency situation – you wouldn’t expect one person to take on the roles of the airway, breathing, circulation and so on – people’s skills lie in different places.
Earlier this year, I lost my best friend to cancer. And Covid robbed me of the chance to be physically present at her funeral; as I know it has done for so many this year.
She was many amazing things, a loving wife, a doting mother to young children, and the most loyal yet nutty of friends, and quite honestly there are no words to do justice to how much I miss her. But I tell you this to share some of the last words she wrote before she died, which were read out at her funeral. She started, “I’ll probably bow out soon…” and then went on to tell those close to her that, after the sadness had passed -she wished them to support each other and help each other, and wished she could share with everyone the clarity that came with this diagnosis. That she found the strength to write these words is a testament to her bravery and courage. But again, I draw you to her words – Help each other. Support each other.
Being positive and making changes isn’t always about running marathons or conquering mountains or attending award ceremonies. It’s the smallest of acts that can make the biggest difference.
If we fast forward to a year after the anonymous tweet and said tweeter stood in a large hall, full of sparkling lights, well-dressed tables and talk of rehearsals and awards. Feeling not so much a fish out of water, but a fish in a hot sandy desert, fins flapping madly. Feeling like the “fat stupid ugly troll” she had spent nine years being told she was. She was seconds away from turning on her heels and running. But someone noticed.
She must have noticed the terrified looking woman backing slowly toward the door. Now she knew nothing of her back story, of the reasons why she was leaving, or even what she was feeling. But she came over, stood next to me, and spoke to me and took me under her wing. Incidentally, much later in the evening, I saw the same person win Nurse of The Year and sat amazed as they read out her name and a list of achievements much longer than my word count here, and wondered if she knew how much her kind words had affected me.
Now I skip back to the present. Being kind to others, being mindful of their opinion, and giving every voice a seat at the table – we have to keep making this happen. You don’t know anyone’s back story, how hard someone’s worked to get where they are. And it doesn’t matter.
It’s the smallest of actions and voices which can lead to the biggest changes.
If you only remember one equation for the rest of your life, let it be this one:
Small actions x Many people = Big Changes