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A chat with my Oma opened my eyes to a different way of living – Melanie Summer

When I think back to what has inspired me, what is dear to my heart is my grandmother, my Oma. Oma was the happiest lady on earth. She never had a bad word for anyone or complained. She was kind and generous, and seen as the person who was always looking out for others.

When I was 16 I asked Oma, who was then in her 80’s, when she looked back on her life what was she most proud of in terms of her achievements. Her answer shocked me. She said, I have nothing, I did everything in my life for others. She cared for children in her work, and after that it was her husband and family.

This was the time (Oma was born in the early 1900’s) when expectations on women were very different to today, and marriage and family were priorities. Oma didn’t marry until she was in her mid 30’s which was seen as very old back then.

She heard about a man who had lost his wife and was left with three young children. She married him, so she could help with the household and to care for his children, and later they had a child who would become my mother. Opa, my grandfather, was very traditional in his manner toward my mother, he was the head of the household and my Oma was expected to be the carer.

That conversation with my Oma really impacted me. It made me think about what I wanted to look back on when I was as old as her. It started me thinking about what I personally wanted to achieve in my life. I became driven to achieve for me so that I would have no regrets.

My determination and drive to achieve which began in my late teens, and still exists today, has enabled me to go out of my comfort zone to do and achieve something important to me. I have taken the attitude of ‘not playing it small’ and being able to address any self doubts along the way. I am determined to never want to have to say, “I wish I had done that….”

I think of my Oma kindly, she was a special person growing up. And the lesson that I learnt from that discussion with her has made me not just a driven, but also a more rounded person. Someone who is firstly me but is also a partner, a mother, a business leader and a ‘go getter’.

Thank you Oma for helping shape the person that I am today.

Melanie Summer

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