Superheroes and Rockstars – Avril Paice
Avril Paice is one of those people who knew who she was and what she was about even as a kid. She constantly went after what she wanted and had no trouble standing up for what she believed in. As a teen I remember her being involved in many different causes with a desire to make a positive contribution to the world around her and a genuine connection to all the people in her life. She has always been passionate about getting out there and helping people. And that passion has extended into adulthood.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Avril has tackled project after project, touching countless lives and making a tremendous difference in her community. She has always been and continues to be an incredible inspiration to me, and she has so graciously agreed to do this interview and give us some insight into the awesomeness that is Avril!
Me: What kind of work have you done?
AP: I am a registered social worker, and I have had roles working with children and youth, families coping with mental illness, and families experiencing domestic violence. I really love public education and also working with students who are entering helping professions. Recently, I have been working in community development, helping non-profit organizations connect to the resources that they need to do their work, helping donors and volunteers find rewarding ways to give back, and helping communities figure out solutions for the problems that they face. In my career now, I am becoming increasingly focused on supporting people who have chronic health conditions, injuries and disabilities. In social work, there’s always an opportunity to learn new things, and change things up.
Me: How do you define success?
AP: I think success is being happy and living the kind of life that you prefer to live, and knowing that you have choices. It’s something we all have to define for ourselves. It’s so interesting that the circumstances that one person defines as success may seem like utter failure to another person. Something that I’ve learned as a social worker is to celebrate little successes and the learning that comes with mistakes and failures.
I used to work in a domestic violence shelter, supporting women who would leave abusive relationships and return to them over and over again. I never believed that they returned to the exact same situation; there was always some subtle learning and shifting of perspectives going on. I believe that we all have life lessons that we are practicing and we get lots of opportunities to do that. I don’t believe that we keep encountering the same lesson until we learn it; I believe that we keep encountering the same lesson while we practice living it and evolving.
Me: Did you have a mentor in your youth? As an adult?
AP: I have been blessed with so many mentors in my life – people who believed in me and encouraged and supported me. When I was younger, teachers and professors and school staff provided mentorship to me, and I’m grateful to still be in contact with many of them today. I have a much greater understanding of how tough their jobs are, and having received so much from them means a lot. As an adult, I am surrounded by mentors and life teachers – people who are supportive and who encourage me to be true to myself, and people who are living their lives as true examples of authenticity, kindness and courage.
Me: How does your life compare to what you thought it would be at this point?
AP: My life is more than what I would have expected for myself. Growing up in a small town, I couldn’t form a vision for myself outside of what I knew at the time, but there was this great big world of possibilities out there. I have had the great fortune of being able to attend post-secondary education, experience many types of work, and be surrounded by a community that cares. I recently realized that, in addition to the path I have taken, there were many, many other routes I could have chosen, all of which held possibilities.
Me: What is your proudest accomplishment?
AP: I have been part of building youth programs that made me proud of myself and everyone else involved. Youth and other adults came to the programs bringing all of their ideas and energy and personalities, and what was created in that kind of space is amazing because of the synergy of all of us wanting to build up each other and the community. There’s nothing I like more than being part of a group of whole-hearted people bouncing ideas off of each other to create something that is bigger than all of us. We knew there could be something different, so we created it.
Me: Tell me about a defining moment/experience in your life.
AP: About 5 years ago, I began experiencing health issues. After working really hard to find the right doctors, diagnoses and treatments (I wanted experts and answers and I wanted things fixed), I have come to realize how important it is to trust myself and to tune into what my body is telling me. It isn’t perfect by any means, but trusting my intuition has reduced the amount of suffering and struggling that I experience around health, and helped me learn to live with my health problems.
Me: How does fear/uncertainty factor in to your decision making process?
AP: I try to look at fear as an important message – what is my fear trying to show me? Fear is a message about what I value, and what I’m afraid to lose or gain. And I try to ask myself what fear is preventing me from receiving, or forcing me to accept. I’m slowly learning to embrace uncertainty and to see it as potential and adventure, rather than something scary. It’s not easy!
Me: Do you consider yourself a leader?
AP: Yes I do consider myself to be a leader, just as I consider all of us to be leaders and teachers for each other. I believe in servant leadership: in which power is shared, the needs of others are considered, and everyone is built up. We can lead by living our own lives as authentically as possible, and serving as an example to others of what is possible. I try to lead by having clarity about my own role and purpose, and knowing who I am and what I value.
The other thing I try to practice is “don’t get your power where you get your paycheque” – I want my power to be in my ability to connect and understand and make thoughtful choices, not in a position that I occupy, or something that I own.
Me: What is your greatest passion?
AP: My greatest passion is connecting and learning with other people. I love to get lost in a book, or in a conversation in a coffee shop.
Me: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
AP: I am an absolute introvert. Despite really enjoying one-on-one conversations, I need a lot of time alone to re-charge.
Me: How do you handle conflict?
AP: As a middle child in a large sibling group, I am a peacekeeper! In my life, I have really gone back and forth on avoiding, peacekeeping and confrontation. But as I get older, I’m learning to choose my battles and not take on issues that don’t belong to me. I’ve worked hard on finding the gift of growth in conflict. This is a huge challenge, but in amongst all of my angst, I do have moments of gratitude for the opportunity to practice.
Me: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
AP: Yes, absolutely. And a personal spirit, if we can flip that around without it sounding too strange. I believe we are spirits first and forever, with bodies and personalities and everything else being temporary and evolving aspects of our experiences.
Me: Do you set goals? What does that look like for you?
AP: I am not motivated by goals, so I no longer set them. This is disappointing for people who want me to set goals! I’m much more motivated by the kinds of experiences that I want to have in my life, and the kinds of connections I want to have with other people. I guess that makes me a process person, not an outcome person.
Me: How do you feel about change?
AP: I changed so many things about my life this year. My husband and I sold an acreage that had been in the family for decades, and we downsized. I decided to leave a job that I had really loved so that I could have time and energy to develop other aspects of my career. I went through more health changes. I went back to school. Some of these changes were hard, but the timing was amazingly perfect and we had so much support every step of the way. I’ve realized that giving up one thing in order to experience something else is necessary and that there is so much support I can tap into, but it’s also made me so much more appreciative of enjoying where I’m at, because the circumstances of life are so temporary.
Me: How do you handle stress?
AP: I handle stress by obsessing! And also by talking to friends, journaling, Reiki, meditation, exercise and all that good stuff. I’d be lying (and lots of people would call me out on it!) if I said I was really good at handling stress.
Me: How much time/attention do you devote to personal growth and development?
AP: I believe that personal growth is the primary purpose of living life in a human body on this planet, so I do put a good bit of time and energy into it! But really it’s about living my life and learning along the way. We are all such works in progress.
Me: What is one of your favourite books?
AP: The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. It’s a full year of beautiful little daily essays. A dear friend and I have both reading his work for a couple of years, and sharing it has made it even better.
Some awesome insights into an amazingly generous, giving woman. I’m privileged to call you a friend and so appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!
Avril resides in Kelowna, BC with her husband Ed of 7 years and her highly demanding cat, Miss Kiki.