Hilary. Early Life Experiences

posted May 18th, 2011 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Hilary to tell me about the experiences in her early life which she believed had the greatest impact on her work life and career.


She said: “My parents immigrated to Canada from Northern Europe in 1954 and 1955. They came separately.  I was the first child born over here. My parents were children of the war. They hadn’t fought in the war but the presumption when you came over here was that it was the new land, the new country and as the first child born here there were expectations for me and an excitement for all the kids in my family. Our parents had come over here… and they weren’t terribly suppressed or anything… but there was an excitement about coming here.  Immigrant parents who did not teach one single child how to speak their first language because they were busy learning English themselves. My parents were big Canadians and I think that coming over here… and we were very much working class, quite poor for a lot of years… the expectation was that the kids would have to do better than the parents had.”


“That would be No.1 and No.2 which is not something that I’ll belabour in a major way, but at age 12 my mother and I were in Europe with my youngest brother and we had to stay for an extra couple of months because my mother became ill and they weren’t sure what was wrong.  It was the first time my mother had gone back home since my parents had come to Canada. Originally, they thought it might be a brain tumour. When she came back to Canada, four or five months later because they couldn’t find anything else that was making her ill they decided, or believed, it was multiple sclerosis.  From there on in, all of life changed.  She had a brutal version of multiple sclerosis and it was front and centre in every part of our life up until she was permanently hospitalized.  I was her guardian by the time I was 19.  My parents split up when I was 19 and my mother died in 1996.  She had been vegetative in a hospital bed for 15 years and there is no question that’s tough, all round tough, but my father was a pretty special man.  We weren’t really given time or there wasn’t time to feel sorry for ourselves.  We marched on and did the best that we could and those are the two biggies in terms of early experiences.”


“I think I was probably more mature at age 21 than I am now.  I’m strong. I’m decisive. When you have that sort of… I don’t want to call it oppression because we weren’t oppressed… but it was always hanging over us.  You find ways.  If it’s not your nature to be miserable and negative and cave under that then you find ways to have fun, to appreciate things, to make fun.  I was the eldest daughter. I had an older brother who had been born in Europe.  I think that I knew a lot about leadership before I even knew the word leadership.  When I roll back through it in my mind, that’s why I am what I am, who I am.”


What Strikes Me?

Our earliest experiences impact who we are


We have the ability to be a leader before knowing what the word leadership means


The impact our parents expectations have on us


What Strikes You?


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