Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's complex

Recently I attended a lecture on a subject of interest to me.  
The subject is not relevant here other than to say my attendance 
was relatively compulsory and ag related.

The presenter is a woman I have had limited 
but a reasonably negative experience of.
She knows her research that's for sure and 
to an extent I agree with her findings.

What I found interesting was the content of her introduction. 
The content of which she supplied.

As I listened to her lecture, I pondered her 'back story"
(I always think of a story tattooed across ones back)
and how there are things we choose to be known by.
Having spent a lot of time introducing others and myself to strangers,
I am hyper aware of how we present ourselves.

At a previous course, 
one of the course conveners 
told his story in the context of his career development.
As a youngster he loved spending time on local sheep farms.
Every waking moment that he could find was spent doing 
regular and seasonal farming related activities.

His plan was to be a sheep farmer.
However life has a different plan for him.
Just as his adult life started began he was in a bad car accident,
breaking his neck, arm and leg.
This, of course was a disaster for  a young man planning on taking on the 
extremely physical life of a sheep farmer.
The physicalness of farming is harsh even to the fittest and strongest of us all,
by all, I don't mean me.

This part of his back story is not what he is known for.
I imagine different people have different experiences of him.
To me he is an intellectual, thoughtful, considered academic whose passion
is developing rural leaders and creating a robust ag industry.
To others he will have been a teacher,
a workmate, a board member, a traveler and more. 

Back to the presenter.
So she was introduced as being famous for two reasons;
1. her research into the land tenure review of High Country;
2. she is the only survivor of the bus that was crushed in the Feb 2011 earthquake.

How utterly horrific to have been riding the bus, 
to stop at the lights,
to have the front of building fall on your vehicle.
To be trapped, 
to be crushed under bricks,
to be surrounded by dying passengers,
to be pulled, damaged and broken from the wreckage by passers by,
to find your leg crushed, 
to work so hard to be rehabilitated, 
to return to your disrupted and altered life, 
changed and learning your new normal.

What I was wondering was simply,
how do you want to be known?

Before the earthquakes, 
this woman was seen as a thorn in farmers sides,
an advocate and supporter of the environment,
passionate and vital.
Now how she is seen has changed.

Her every introduction is coloured by being earthquake survivor.
Does it detract from her research and interest?
Her recent history is whispered both with compassion and admiration,
but how does how people view her sit with her?
It's complex and evolving I'm sure.

I believe it's worth our while to examine how we want to be viewed.
What stories do we tell about ourselves?
What stories do others tell about us?
Are we a sum of a lifetime of wounds and scars?
Or are we a creation of ourselves?

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