Nothing in common but common ground
If you are looking to embark on the path of post-secondary education with the objectives of instant solidarity in being around others “who are just like you” and ensuring futuristic clarity, you may be disappointed. Yet, you might also be pleasantly surprised.
Four semesters ago a group of about 100 first-year SAIT journalism students walked into a room, looked around and thought, “We have nothing in common.” All there really was in common in the beginning was the common ground that was being walked on.
Although the technological training and understanding of the many facets of becoming a successful journalist were profound, the most insightful preparation for the world of journalism was secured by embracing the most unfamiliar, and perhaps at times uncomfortable – with the people who walked on shared territory. It was not in the similarities and what was known, but in the differences and the discoveries of the unknown that created the most insightful, groundbreaking realizations.
The greatest lesson: as much as it is important to be accepted and understood, it is equally important to accept and understand. It is what is learned through the diversities, the adversities, the failings and the successes that were broken down into words and put back together into stories that were shared, accepted, offered and embraced.
There is a distinct comfort in being in a group of people who share fundamental similarities such as: the love of writing and the loathing of injustice, to be with people who believe their province has more energy than only oil and gas, or where it does not need to be shared whose name was checked on a ballot, yet it’s perfectly acceptable to stand behind the governments who are in power – or not.
Relativity was found being around those who would choose boarding over skiing, through sports-talk, and the many unique artistic passions that were fostered as each person grew further into their own.
Some have quit smoking and some may spend the rest of their lives trying. There are those who have food sensitivities and try to make good lifestyle choices, unless there is an opportunity to thoroughly enjoy a hotdog with all of the toppings, and will devour that bum in a bun with the greatest joy ever.
No one is a 44-year-old 5’2” white woman raised Catholic in a small Alberta town, who is learning daily to love again and to trust in God. But many are of different ethnicities. Some were born in different continents, countries, cities, or towns smaller than 6,500. Many were raised in diverse faiths and too are discovering their own connection to their Higher Power. Someone else is learning to fall in love again.
Perhaps no one has written a book, but someone has entrepreneurial ambitions. Someone has also worked in communications and shares the same fear and excitement of getting back out there with a whole new respect for the English language.
No one was discriminated against for being a divorced single-mom, but many have been discriminated against. Others understand the complexities as children of divorced parents.
No one’s child is a diabetic, but someone is a diabetic. Perhaps no one loves a child who was raped last year, but someone has been raped, and many support the #metoo movement. No one lives in fear of brain injury because her child died of epilepsy, but someone has epilepsy, someone has ADHD, and someone has a sibling who has battled cancer – he understands the fragility of life.
Maybe no one is grieving daily the loss of her child, yet someone is grieving the loss of her childhood.
What began as inquisitiveness of physical distinctiveness, revealing creative capacities, unique views of politics, social issues and religious beliefs, turned into genuine interest and most of all, acceptance. Rigid walls began to crumble and put back together to form strong boundaries instead of the once solid barricades. For this group it is no longer “I want,” it is “we want.” It is not what “I stand for,” but what “we stand for.”
After two years of journaling together, finding solidarity through the diversities is an insight to the larger world and workforce. If and when you look around and think, “We have nothing in common,” remember to look beyond the face holding up the mirror and feel the ground beneath your feet. That will be enough to clear a path for those who are coming behind, as well as those walking ahead – who might need to also turn around and go back.