Rhodes Scholar and Diamond Jubilee Medal winner; Aaron talks about the value of mentorship and following your dreams.
Welcome to Success Stories. Brought to you by Project Aspiro, produced by the World Blind Union and CNIB and funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
In this video you’ll meet Aaron Marsaw, Legal Counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Canada legal Services.
This video includes a montage of clips that show Aaron walking to work talking with colleagues and working at his desk.
My name is Aaron Marsaw. My job title is Legal Counsel and the organization I work for is the Federal Department of Justice, more specifically Citizenship and Immigration Canada Legal Services.
My educational background consists of an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Philosophy from Laurentian University. And I then studied a couple of years at Oxford in England in International Development Studies and then I pursued law at the University of Toronto.
So the nature of my vision loss is optic nerve atrophy. I have no eyesight in the left eye and I have approximately two percent peripheral vision only, in my right eye.
I lost my vision when I was about 12 years old, so in 1985, due to a brain tumor and cysts behind the optic nerve.
Losing my vision was certainly a difficulty experience for me, in particular the process of losing my vision over the several months, not knowing what was happening or what was going on, not even realizing I was losing my eyesight in the first place and yet different tasks were becoming difficult to perform.
And then the process of adjusting to that new reality was certainly difficult; very emotionally trying. At age 12 just when I was hoping to get some independence I definitely felt like losing my eyesight was a complete step in the opposite direction.
When I was in high school I worked as a camp counselor in the summers and yes that was a terrific experience in working with the public and developing different skills such as planning recreational activities and lifeguarding.
I think working as a youth and student was important, yes, and I do think it helped me prepare for finding jobs as an adult because it got me accustomed to everything from how to act, how to prepare for, and how to conduct myself, during job interviews and how to get along with co-workers and my employer in a job setting.
In terms of what I like most about my job its being to help my clients, I also get to interact with terrific colleagues and use my analytical skills in the process.
I think having lost my vision instilled in me a determination not to quit or not to let my sight loss prevent me from pursuing my passions or my dreams.
But by and large I think my limitations are a function of my perception rather than reality, so I try to keep an open mind and not let my perceptions get in the way of my dreams.
Yes I’ve had several mentors and in fact I still have mentors today. And they help me in looking at situations in ways that I have not thought off; they open my eyes to possibilities I have not thought of. But by and large I think they’re part of the process of me learning about myself and growing personally and professionally.
In terms of advice I’d give to someone looking for mentor and not knowing here to start: what’s worked best for me is pursuing informal mechanisms to mentoring as opposed to going up to someone and asking them “will you be my mentor?” and then that person feeling perhaps a bit overwhelmed and “Gee I don’t know if I could take on such a huge responsibility”.
I think just ask people that you trust the questions that you have on your mind and people are more than happy to talk about themselves and share their experience. And then the relationship has to be nurtured and has to grow just like any other friendship or professional relationship; it doesn’t just happen overnight.
Don’t be afraid to follow your dream, it’s only by following your dream and by doing something you’re passionate about that you’re really going to be happy in the long run and along with that you need to be able to advocate for yourself and your own needs because you alone know what works for you and no one else can tell you what you need.