I’ve got a nerve

I’ve got a nerve.

One of the topics I get all het up about is inclusion. There are plenty of people writing about their experience of being excluded because of various factors. There are plenty of people writing about the need to include people of all ilks, and not discriminate. There are some very smart people moving beyond these conversations and making compelling arguments for the case.

Inclusion. It matters.

I’m fortunate. Very fortunate.

My folks chose to graft and send me to a private school to get a good education in my early years. I got my GCSEs – distinctly not all A’s and B’s. More like C’s and a combination of the rest. That’s not a good thing to making a point of. The private education was meant to do better for me than that with respect to my results. What I did learn about though was things like being independent. I went on school skiing trips, camping trips, week long I.T. camps, trips to the ballet, to Canterbury Cathedral, and more. I learned how to be confident in myself even though I may not have been academically brilliant.

From there, I went on to college to do my ‘A’ Levels in psychology, sociology and french. A year longer than I should have been there, and I got my grades to get me on a bachelors degree in psychology. I enjoyed that subject a lot. And after that, and some wondering whether I was going to go down the educational psychology route, I decided on occupational psychology and got my pass in 2003. I was a straight C student through all that. I didn’t find it easy, and often questioned what I wanted to do.

My family were there through all that. My friends came and went through all that. I also worked in a lot of different part time jobs through all that. I learned a lot about other cultures in that time. Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Sikhi, Hinduism, all became fascinating topic of interest for me. I wasn’t scholarly, but I knew a lot of people from all those religions and actively sought to find out more about them. I even did my undergraduate dissertation on the topic of homosexuality and religion.

I’ve got a nerve.

It wasn’t until I started work life that I was exposed to more. I thought I was fairly good at being sensitive to others and knowing how to behave. Then I met people who were wheelchair bound. I met people who were homosexuals and lesbians. I met people who were challenging poor behaviours at work. I learned slowly that difference exists in the big bad world, and you can choose to either accept people for who they are, or you don’t. I saw that people tended to be better when they were inclusive. I like being inclusive, and don’t like to exclude anyone. Harmony and relationships are important to me. So I take the time to learn more about these other ways of living and what that means for people.

Later in my working career, I started to work in positions where I was having to help others understand more about this topic of diversity. Wow that was hard. I had to learn a lot about my own prejudices and my own behaviours I was exhibiting. That was tough. I had to face up to facts about myself and how I thought about the world. That’s not an easy set of thoughts to own up to. I had to accept I had prejudices against gay people. I had to accept I had prejudices against certain religions. I had to accept I had prejudices against disabled people. Holy crap.

I’ve got a nerve.

Through hard work, I learned that this was just crap. I had to learn how to challenge myself. I had to learn how to value others. Because, you see, I didn’t – not really. I accepted them. I even tolerated them. How very superior, right? How very unintelligent. How very crass and single minded. I don’t think I was ever openly dsicriminatory to anyone. But that wasn’t my issue. I was privately discriminatory.

How do you get past that? How do you stop that kind of thinking?

There’s no silver bullet here people. I can’t point at a particular thing and say “that right this, and that right there” was what helped me. I had to challenge what I knew by talking with others. By talking to people in the know. By reading what I could. By taking time to reflect and find out what was going on in my head.

I’ve got a nerve.

At the same time as all this, I remember learning about being English. That’s a weird thing to say, right? I mean, why would I want to learn that? I grew up in this country, so why wouldn’t I know about the culture I’ve grown up in? Because growing up in a country, and knowing its culture are not the same thing. Things like football, cricket, tea, English breakfast, beer, London Town, music, art, books – all of these things and more, make up what I love about being an English man.

Voting, sarcasm, self-deprecation, politics, schooling, education, the NHS, this is all part of who I am and what I know. Banter – oh my, what would we do without banter! I’ve learned, both through my own and through others mistakes, just how powerful a thing banter can be. It can build relationships, and it can cut people to their core. It is, of course, a British affair and not restricted to the English. And I’ve learned how to use banter as a way of testing boundaries with people. I don’t always get it right, but I do enjoy the conversation.

I’ve got a nerve.

And at some point in the last five years I started to value people. I saw past my prejudices, my biases and my own self-limiting beliefs about others. I saw the folly in that thinking and realised I love the human condition. It’s weird, wonderful, and scary. Difference rules, and we should all strive to be unique. We all need a place to land and a place to thrive. It’s why I blog now. I have a voice to help others find theirs. It’s why I’m so keen on the learning and development field. I learn so much about others that I improve myself. I become a better person because of the people I work with every damn day. We’re all brilliant, and I want to harness that brilliance and share it with everyone.

I’ve got a nerve.