Stories of WYWM - Why Marina on the Go by Marina Theologus

Mel O'Sullivan - September 29, 2021

Why Marina on the Go,

Well growing up we were always on the move, I attended six elementary schools and one two high schools here in western Canada where I grew up. I have lived in over 40 homes and I have gone through my fair share of transition. I was a child of a single mother, neurodiverse and liked to challenge the system.

I have had to advocate for myself when it came to the school system of my needs and in other cases faced discriminating Teachers head on. In the 90’s it was still a place where some male teachers felt it was okay to say this sport is not for girls. I had to go through the principle to get these individuals removed from their Coaching roles.

Yes, I identify as female and yes, I wanted to be a wrestler and play on the rugby team. As a neurodiverse youth I had difficulty within the mainstream school system and in the 90’s we had moved from having a government that supported those requiring extra supports to removing funding to support children requiring extra assistance or individual learning plans. This led to a combined issue of frustration and disruption in the school environment.

Once I started to become involved in contact sports, I realized this was a place I naturally excelled. Due to being lower income, I also had to balance a part-time job from age 14 onward to be able to afford the gear and trips associated with going on Sports trips. Surprisingly, my behaviour and concentration inmoved as I was able to count on my teammates to also assist me through encouragement and study supports.

I remember the day I chatted with my teacher suggesting we needed a tablet that could translate my notes into words on the screen back in 1995. He looked and me and suggested hopefully this technology would one day exist and here we are. My learning differences are here to stay, my processing disorder does change and 8mt abilities grow as I learn to utilize the tools around me.

My Processing Disorder according to my Educational Psychological assessment highlighted a few things. #1 I have a unique lens that I see the world through

#2 The areas where I am weaker are manageable with the right supports, technology, and accommodations

#3 Man I love data, I loved how it showed me a bell curve and the why behind the frustrations inside. I am in the 99 percentile for perceptual organization, that means I visually can remember things as they visually were better that 99% of my peers with same age and learning background. I was however only in the 5% percentile for reading and writing comprehension with those same peers. Therefore, it was harder for me to do research on unknow new topics and materials and then in a clear format present that concept, my understanding and in turn developing my own social work praxis.

I am also chameleon; I can fit in anywhere and have a good sense of self and due to all my transition, I am well versed in the complex nature of relationships.

I have been a Forces Spouse for many years now and my background set me up perfect for this type of on-the-go lifestyle. I have a natural ability to understand how people feel being somewhere new and having to start over. I am also used to the sad fact of feeling excluded or feeling different. This often happens when military families try to connect with local established friendships. We find there are many that just do not have the mental capability to fit any new people into their lives especially if it is for a 2-year posting.

As a young child with learning challenges and behavioural issues due to the compounded fact that I was neurodiverse and did not have supports and I had to attend 6 different schools I frequently “fell between the cracks” and was mislabelled a difficult child. Compassion is a difficult skill to teach others, I honestly do not know how I came about it. If I were to take a guess it was through all those places of being different myself. I would not change who I am for anything. I will however use any nugget of new knowledge or technology to support me.

In 2007, I went through a significant evaluation to receive my “Disability” designation. I am so thankful that now the world is seeing one another through a differently-abled lens. I started to used mind mapping software and the university I was attending was then forces to provide me alternative text format so I could read it through my reading software. The teachers were forces to allow me access to my computer and recording classed. This was a game changer.

To think now we accept people’s word on their neurodiversity, and I had to go through over a 40-hour assessment to prove I was disabled enough to be provided any additional considerations is wild. I am so thankful that our children and university students have Microsoft 360 and smart phones with amazingly helpful apps at their fingertips. That we have Miro free mind mapping chat rooms. That companies like WYWM are opening their doors to all of us free of charge to learn at our own pace and provide us opportunities to discover new strengths based on our potential.

Many friends I have referred through to the testing are initially scared of it and so afraid to screw up. This is a consequence of our school systems failure to bring us up with confidence. We do have in an ability to be perfect just the way we are, but this is a learned understanding. Schools were not a place for to do this in many cases and instead they instilled in us in a place of constant fear that we are not the 1% that will get that job, the fear that we are not good enough so why even try.

But they were wrong, we are all capable of amazing growth and have our own unique insights to give. Share your ideas, be a change agent for those around you to improve the process.

Everyone has the potential for upward mobility. What I mean by this is that just because you have not done something before or anyone you know like you have not does not mean it is not possible.

Everything is possible, you just have not done it “Yet” or it has not been created “Yet” or thought of that way “Yet.”

Keep your heart, eyes, and mind open, not only to learning but to others. Help break down the real and invisible barriers you feel, and others feel upon themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions what would help you?

I have just recently returned to Canada after a 3-year OUTCAN (Canadian Armed Forces Spouse overseas) position during this world Coronavirus Pandemic. I was in a place where everything was new, and I was required to do things outside of my comfort zone on the daily sometimes. My Spouse and I took our children to many (over 10) countries around Europe including 5 during the pandemic. We said okay this is different, what do we have to do to stay safe and make this happen. We were isolated away from our family and could not return home due to our home country disallowing us to return without hotel quarantine. This is the same thing in a different situation. We had a problem; we did our best to find solutions. We did not want our children to feel think that our one piece of the world was the only important place on Earth, they learned that we together can travel in countries where English is not spoken, they learnt new words quickly to get what they needed on the fly.

We homeschooled and had to update or home rules on technology access due to having to go online for schooling, we helped our kids in Year 1 and Year 3 complete coding lessons and use interactive tools. Thank goodness we had the ability to purchase computers and take the time to support them. Once again here I was taking on a new roll as teacher. This is how life works. We are lifelong learners, now employers are willing to give working from home a go for their staff. Because who honestly wants to babysit a bunch of adults. We are learning to Trust one another and support one another in new ways.

Self care and work-life balance “The Myth” or “the Unicorn of jobs” was something that was talked about before the pandemic, but not until the whole world structure of how thing were went to shit did employers actually consider this. Before the Pandemic I had to leave my job of 10 years doing digital caseload management with the Province of BC as it was considered impossible to let a person such as myself work from home and manage confidential information from home. But 18 months later they did exactly that, sent every worker home with a laptop and said, do your essential service work from home while caring for your children. I missed the boat on that. But I am happy to see that now my previous co-workers can log on at 7am, run kids to school at 8:45am and pick up at 2:30pm and still be considered valuable members of a team. They are now kickin ass on their work teams and their home teams as parents. People will give you 100% when they feel valued.

I personally love the office, I miss spending time with my coworkers in the flesh, however from working with many different individuals internationally and virtually I can honestly say I still feel connected. We have all been through this pandemic together and understand how isolating it can be. Some of us have been through some insane levels of isolation and quarantine. This provides compassion for one another. Understanding for one another. Many on the team I work within are Veterans or Military Spouses often we have spent years isolated and away form those we love and have external factors placed upon us that we legally cannot challenge openly. Imposed restriction from Spouses, extended deployments, being forces to move across the country or internationally from our jobs losing our jobs and deleting years of employment progress. Things like Linkedin are helping, allowing us a way to stay connected with past co-workers/ teammates/ managers, But the system is not yet perfect. I am so proud to work for WYWM who is reaching out to these people in real, tangible and meaningful ways.

I am currently working in the basement of my Starbucks Manager’s (21years ago we worked together) home; she had space and is sharing it with me. She works 3 floors up in her office working for an insurance company and myself down here for WYWM. We built a bond 20 years ago and committed to supporting one another. These types of relationships and friendships do not come often. As I mentioned I am just completing a Forces move home and I am going to be living in a hotel for probably 2 more months on top of the 2 months we have already done. Be a person that can show up in real ways for others.

We meet at noon for lunch, we have a morning coffee break, we keep checks on one another’s mental health and physical health. Be Brave and speak into on another’s lives. PTSD is something many people in the Forces or from the Forces struggle with. This Pandemic has exacerbated this problem, do your check ins. Try to think of one person you know may need one a week and do a reach out. This could literally save a life. Humans are meant to live within community and fear is holding many of us back. Know that sending a text message or a quick phone call cannot spread Coronavirus, it only opens communication.

I really want to thank you for reading my story of who I am, where I have come from and why I am so thankful to be here today. I know many people are hurting and the world is uneasy, but there is just so much to learn and do to make this ride called Life better we all need to step up. One step at a time is all I ask. Pick something manageable for you. Find something to be passionate about.


Marina (your average not so average girl)

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