This morning I had to mail a letter. The shortest way to the mailbox (usually) is a quick jaunt across the park behind our house. However, it is January in Ottawa, Canada, and we’ve had a snowy year. The short way at this time of year is the hard way.
But, we had above zero temperatures this week, so I thought maybe the snow might have melted to passable depth. I ventured out into the whiteness. You know what? We’ve had a snowy year. Even with our recent meltdown, the snow lay deep. I worked up a sweat and burned a few calories breaking trail through it.
After posting the letter, I took the sidewalk around to the road beside the park. That’s when I spotted the trail my son broke through the snow as a shortcut home from school. I followed in his footsteps. Much easier.
It reminded me of a movie we watched over the holidays: Made in Dagenham. The movie dramatized the 1968 strike at a Ford plant in Dagenham, England where women went on strike to fight for equal pay. The idea of equal pay for women upset the economic order of the time, and businesses resisted. The strike created hardship for the women, the men who worked at the plant, and the community, but the women didn’t give up. They worked up a sweat, burned a few calories and broke trail through to the Equal Pay Act of 1970.
When I started work at my first job in 1985, I received the same pay as the men working in my male-dominated field. By then it was accepted practice. At the time it never occurred to me that it ever could have been another way. By then, we all took it for granted. Because women before us had broken trail, the rest of us followed easily in their footsteps.
(Now, we still have some distance to go. Salaries for female-dominated occupations still trail behind those of male-dominated occupations. Child-care workers, in particular, are grossly undervalued and underpaid for performing one of the most vital roles in our society.)
I chose the challenging route to the mailbox this morning. I second-guessed my decision several times in the middle of the field. Should I turn back? Give up? But I kept going. Soon the goal was closer than my starting point, so I kept trudging.
And so it is when we break trail. We begin with a goal in mind, one that we know will be a challenge to achieve. As we take each difficult step, we wonder, “Should I turn back? Should I just give up?” But we keep trudging, and soon the goal becomes closer than the starting point.
And the next trip is always much easier.