A bit of an emotional morning, you guys.
I haven't talked about my new friend in a while. (Though now she feels much more like an old friend, a dear friend.) If you haven't read my original posts, you might want to because they'll give you a sense of the challenges she was facing and her uphill battle to meet them.
When I last wrote, I think I was still reeling from the intensity of the experience, from the disappointment and shock at the settlement process (or lack thereof) for newcomers to my city. I was trying to sort out my reaction to recent events and figure out how best to move forward.
Well, we still meet at least once a week, nine months after that first day together. We've even been asked to speak about our unexpected friendship. So far, we've spoken to community groups on three occasions and we've met some amazing people who really listened to us, who are not okay with the status quo, and who are working hard toward positive change.
Still, when we get together, we always seem to have an endless to-do list that we're chipping away at. My friend still faces a veritable mountain of challenges, learning how to climb as she goes.
Take this morning. After many months of school and computer re-training, my friend met with an employment counselor. I tagged along, at her request. We've all met before and I've found the employment counselor to be a wonderful, helpful, and knowledgeable young woman who can give my friend the information and tools she needs to find a good job. And yet, when we attend these meetings, I have to sit on my hands and bite my tongue because there seems to be a persistent disconnect during our discussions that I can't quite put my finger on.
My lovely friend, she falters. She is unsure of herself. She doesn't answer the counselor's questions in the same way that I know she'd answer them if it was just the two of us, chatting.
At one point, in an attempt to get at the bottom of my friend's needs and desires where employment is concerned, the counselor asked her about her dreams for future employment, not now, but five years down the road. My friend was silent. At the mention of the word dream, her demeanour changed. She looked down at her hands. She reached for a tissue and stayed silent as her eyes filled with tears.
At that point, I wanted to jump in so badly, and ask the questions in a way that I knew would make my friend feel comfortable and then give the counselor the answers she needed to complete her assessment. But I couldn't do that. They'll need to find their own way to the answers.
Here's the thing: I know she has dreams. I know what she'd like to be doing in five years. I know that she has the aptitude and the will to achieve it. It would be a long road, but not an endless one. I know she can do it, one step at a time. But she couldn't talk about it to her counselor. She just couldn't. And for my part, I sat there, in an overly air-conditioned room, feeling chilled and perplexed and literally sitting on my hands, wondering at her silence.
It's all I can think about now. What is it exactly? Is she afraid to have a dream? Afraid she'll be disappointed? Or that someone will try to stop her? Does she not trust her own abilities? Does she think that the system will prevent her from achieving her dream? Has she decided not to believe in dreams at all?
It leaves me almost unbearably sad. To have a dream, but not to be able to talk about it. Of all the challenges we've faced together and all the disappointments and dead ends and do-overs and brick walls and closed doors, this is the most painful heartbreak so far.
Because I believe in having a dream. You might not achieve it in exactly the way you intend, but at the very least, you need to think about your dream and talk about your dream, turn it over in your mind and sketch it out on paper, so you'll know where to start and which direction to take. So that you can ask for help if you get stuck along the way. So that you'll recognize it when you get there. Working toward a dream is what keeps me going. Even if I never get there or if it looks a whole lot different when I do.
I can't imagine a life without dreams.