Each new stage in my life brings clues and insights into who she was, not just in relation to me, but as her own person. Putting her history together is not easy, because her relationships with nearly everyone in my extended family was strained and their views of her are uniformly negative. I recently discovered a drawing that I had made for my mother when I was in about second grade. The drawing was just the classic crayon stick figure, but to me, it was a treasure.
The real surprise was on the back of the paper. In my mother’s distinctive writing, I read a draft of a letter to the manager at the department store where she worked. She was explaining why her fellow salespeople were unhappy and why customers were frustrated. As I read it, I clearly saw elements of self-advocacy. Her language was diplomatic. Her sentences examined the situation from all points of view, including the managers. The letter ends abruptly. I imagined that it was continued on a second page that was never saved. And it was probably never saved because I hadn’t drawn on it.
I held the paper for a while and realized that my mother was advocating for herself, her colleagues, and the customers. I’m sure doing so was risky; she was not a manager and had little economic security. I have no idea of whether she ever delivered her letter or had the conversation with the manager. But I have discovered a new connection to my mom at a time of life when it means the most to me: as I prepare to launch the SAY IT Program online self-advocacy training. I think she would really like the work I’m doing.
Can you remember a time when someone close to you advocated? What does that memory mean to you today? You might just find it helps you get or stay motivated to advocate for your future.