I was asked a few months ago if I would have applied for this job if my marriage had not broken up. In short – no. The travel and long days would have put me off, too much time away from home. Ironically I now work less and have more free time. I’ve learnt the value of potential time to pursue individual dreams and goals in marriage since then. But, since I had no one to please but myself when I saw the advert, I applied. I remember the shock (terror) of finally finishing my summer reports (a shock in itself) while on holiday, and finding an email inviting me for interview.
I didn’t do A-Level Politics, I couldn’t even remember which party Margaret Thatcher was in (I know…shameful, no excuses), I was the least likely candidate (possibly ever given that fact…) for this institution. My main qualifications were that I am a qualified teacher, and I taught current affairs which involved clarifying to 7 year olds that Scotland potentially becoming independent didn’t involve an actual physical separation from England and the need to get on a plane.
Working in Parliament feels like a privilege. The dictionary defines a privilege as ‘a special right or advantage available only to a particular person or group‘. In my role I am definitely privileged, and I marvel at it every day. My pass opens doors to some of the most illustrious corridors in the land. I meet ‘Sirs’ as a matter of course, shake hands with politicians and Lords, and help encourage young, impressionable minds to get involved in our democracy. I walk into iconic buildings and the thrill of going into the chambers doesn’t fail to send a tingle down my spine. I can’t quite fathom how I am lucky enough to be here.
Not only do I get to do all of these things, I actually get paid for it. Admittedly post-mortgage and travel there’s not a lot left, but I can survive. It got me thinking. I don’t even view that as a privilege, yet across the world there are millions who don’t earn enough even for food, let alone enough to own a home and spend on the luxury of travel. I’m challenged to steward my money carefully but also to be generous because I can be. How fortunate am I?
When I was a class teacher, imparting morals and the fundamentals of personal and social education, I would regularly explore the concept of school. In the UK the privileged are those who attend private school, the Oxbridge students, those born into monied families, maybe even with titles. While we as children feel tortured by 7 hours a day (and then homework), we forget to consider the students for whom education is a pipe-dream, or who walk several miles each way every day to learn. Maybe privately educated students here in the UK are even more privileged, but let’s not forget that less than 150 years ago the concept of childhood and years of playing simply wasn’t. Education is a privilege not afforded to all.
I am fortunate; I have never lacked for anything of value. I was loved, I had people to play with and plenty of toys, I’m sure I didn’t see the sacrifices made by my parents for me and my brothers. I remember coming home to freshly baked cakes, and even being taken out of school for lunch – just Mum and me. I remember the treat of a fizzy drink in the pub after a walk on holiday. In my mind, in all of these small ways, I am truly a privileged person.
I hope I never forget what an inordinate privilege I have in working at Parliament. I also hope I never forget how privileged I am to be living in a democracy, a daughter, sister, friend, educated and free. Despite the devastation I’ve experienced, I remain with this thought – what a fortunate life I lead.
Here are a few of my recent highlights…I wonder what in your life makes you feel privileged?