It happened during the period in my life when I was completing an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner. This was one of the worst periods in my life because of the way that I was treated during this time. One very distinct memory that has always stayed with me was when I received the initiation rite of a first year apprentice.
I will never forget being stripped naked in front of a large group of men and covered in a concoction of grease, marking blue, iron filings and other unmentionable items. The main area that they focused on was putting it on my genitals. After they had finished I was left to walk over to the toilet block and try and clean myself up as best as possible. Then I had to walk several kilometres home while to try and clean myself up.
This really was the beginning of a four year process where I was continually berated in front of the other workers. Where I was continually told that my work was not up to scratch. Where I was told that I would never make it through my apprenticeship, where I was given the most horrible jobs to see if there was some way that they could force me to quit my job.
I remember working as hard as I could day after day in the hope that at best I would just be left alone. The last thing that I ever expected was to receive any praise for my work. But no matter how hard I tried or how hard I worked or no matter how good the job I had done it was never good enough.
This was my experience day after day for four years. I would lay awake at night dreading the next day’s work. Then I would wake up in the early hours of each day dreading in anticipation what would happen to me that day.
I never knew how much my early work experience had affected me until a while later. I left my apprenticeship as soon as my time was up. I then traveled overseas where I found that I was a hard worker.
When I came back I worked for a cotton farmer near my home town for a while. I was taught a hard lesson there by one of the other workers. On any job things will go wrong and in farming there were always things to fix and things that were breaking down.
One day when something went wrong with thej ob that we were doing he said to one of the workers in front of me, “have you noticed that Chris always blames someone else when something goes wrong?”
I really didn’t like what he said, but I realized what he said was true. As a result of how I had been treated as an apprentice I always felt the need to justify any mistake. I made a decision from that day on that I would take responsibility when something was my fault. I even realized that taking responsibility meant taking the blame when I wasn’t at fault.
I think that this is the most valuable lessons that I have ever learned. In making this decision I made a choice to never again be a victim. That I would be able to be accountable and accept the fact that I wouldn’t always get everything right what was important was that I did my best.
What happened to me had nothing to do with my circumstances. I have made lots of mistakes and been in lots of situations where I would like to blame someone else for what has gone wrong in my life. I took a step to change something inside of me that gave me a different perspective on my circumstances.
Most of us have probably heard of the experiment that a guy called Pavlov conducted with some dogs. He trained the dogs to remember that every time he rang a bell that they would be fed. Once they thought they were going to be fed they would start salivating. He repeated this so many times that he only had to ring the bell and the dogs would start salivating.
This highlights one of the key differences between us and the animal kingdom. We are able to change because we have the capability of an inner change. Yes we can also have our behaviour modified because of external circumstances. But, there is also a potential for something more powerful in the way we change to take place in our lives when we choose to be involved in an inner change. We allow for the possibility to become new people no longer dragged down by our past choices. When we change in this way we open a door for new horizons that will move us past all our previous limitations.