to: my makers // my mentors

I read articles every week that equate to the same narrative I used to preach. The "you'll never understand me" narrative. You're 35+ and grew up when alcohol was cheap and listening to your favorite song/watching your favorite show on demand wasn't a thing. A long time ago when picking up developed photos was a multi-day process and homosexual consensual relationships were illegal (NZ Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed 1986 decriminalized same-sex couples). Hopefully one of those examples hit a nerve and made you sit down and realize 30 years is a long time.

I could sit at this keyboard and write about the differences between our generations for nineteen straight hours until I get upset and disenchanted enough to key the nearest vinyl record. Thankfully, I don't know how to feel anger and disenchanted is a feeling I only know by watching Kanye West do things post-2010.

Throughout our early childhood and some of our pre-teen years, most of us we were taught something called 'manners'. We were taught everything from looking both ways when crossing the road to understanding unfairness and equality. Whether this lesson was given by parents, siblings, relatives and/or other caregivers, they are the people who made us and we owe them more than we can fathom. When you reach the point in your life that you begin to question the environment into which your maker taught you; is when you're ready to critique and teach. I will always respect my parents and am forever grateful for their lessons, but I can only improve the scripture bestowed.

September 2018

'Put your phone away at the dinner table'

I'm sat at a dinner table with the Kaitaia Lion's Club. Around the table are business owners and change makers; all above the age of 35. They treat me as a guest of my parents and treat me accordingly; asking me questions about what I do and giving me the best hospitality I could ask for. My local mayor is sitting across from me and their conversation interest me. At every opportunity I gain, I want to encourage young people to get involved in their local government through social media.

The mayor is an illusive, yet delightful character.

How do I let my network know that he is in my circle tonight? I have the opportunity where I can talk to them about local government policy, youth projects, crime rates or anything else that affects our youth.

I pull out my phone to take a photo of the dinner and the scenery in the background. Like a hawk, my Mum immediately whispers in my ear to put it away. A woman on the other side of the table saw me put my phone back in my pocket and began to chuckle. "I always had to tell my kids too! No phones at the table". That's right, no phones at the table.

I always respected this in my household. Eating a meal is accompanied by conversation with whoever you're sharing the meal with. It's manners.

It's just a photo, I know. To you, this is just a 'brag' photo of crumbed scallops and macaroni & cheese in front of a adequately-lit room of old people including the mayor. Your take on this is one of the two:

  1. It's a typical brag photo that will go on Instagram and LinkedIn and get a few likes and then be followed by something totally unrelated.

  2. That's an every day, every night occasion for me. It doesn't need to be documented or published.

To my peers and my network in Kaitaia, that photo could have been the realization that sitting in the same room as the mayor isn't as far as they'd imagine. If Kii, the boy who flipped his kayak on year 10 camp and then swam through murky river water has made it here; why can't I?

There's no reason why you can't. It's achievable and I just want to share that photo to let you know.

While I'm trying to climb this ladder in a sea of Political Science and Law students in this bubble, I have to step back from the rules my mother taught me. How am I supposed to grow my networks and stay relevant if I can't share my location or name drop the event. I'm sitting at a table with Chris Hipkins and the Mayor for Porirua, and you bet my phone is coming out to let my networks know. Sorry mum.

January 2017

'Be careful what you put on the internet'

Back when social media was a few questionable websites and the newest T-Pain track was being sent via Bluetooth to my phone, the lesson of the internet was vital. Facebook is a large place. My mother would also warn me about the photos and statements I'd share on Facebook and Twitter because 'employers and universities monitor them'. Photos with my friends playing football isn't likely to be a 'make or break' moment for my employer, but I understand where she's coming from. From then I was hesitant to speak on social media. For my first 2 years on Facebook I never posted a status update or commented on a post; a feat I was proud of.

As I grew and gained a knowledge of the environment in which my makers educated me, I became vocal on social media. From 'Like for Like' statuses to intense questions on euthanasia, my Facebook following grew to these status updates and I was no longer the mute in the school. I was proud, but it felt weird. It was the feeling of taking a $2 bag of lollies and eating all of them within 60 seconds. A bittersweet feeling; where the situation appears fine but there's an internal conflict you have to deal with. A perpetual haunting image every time you look at a screen that these words will come back to bite you.

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In 2017, I spoke to a young man I used to attend college (high school) with. He spoke to me reluctantly and asked how I was doing and what my next moves were. He brought up how he watched all of the Who Cares? NZ videos in one night and felt a sense of pride in Kaitaia. It wasn't because Kaitaia was getting a shout out every time an episode dropped. "I just felt like, 'wow that sh*t is possible now' you know?" He went further on to explain that he was open to new opportunities outside of learning a trade just from watching these videos.

At most, I featured in a 15-second segment in six fortnightly episodes. My colleague and I would turn on the camera, sit in a well lit room and talk about the topic for a good 15 minutes. We would then pack up and export the video and send it to the editor of that series who would take his favorite bits out of it and use it.

I never thought anything of this post-production, but this series changed his direction in his career.

Today

To my makers & mentors,

I can't thank you enough for the knowledge you've bestowed on me. Every day we learn more and I begin to critique my own ideals and values, but somehow the lessons you taught me act as constitution. This is a positive and a negative, but is essential in a balanced life. I find myself in situations that I can handle positively and appropriately. I can't help but wonder if I followed your rules how different things could have turned out. I can't thank my mentors enough for teaching me that stability doesn't come naturally and that our own rules and restrictions must be adapted to fit the times.

I know mum blames herself for my bad handwriting because she introduced to the computer when I was three. That's not her fault, it's my way of choosing my own form of communication. It turns out the only writing I ever needed to do in university was for my signature (which is illegible too). I know as I sign this off, you'll read this and call me about how this may make me less attractive in the job market.

I guess we'll find out.



Kii Small