Last weekend I found myself walking through the bush at night with 34 teenagers with my eyes shut.
I was then led into the most beautiful amphitheater filled with fairy lights and candles and a stage.
This was Neverland, a place where we could explore the idea of our ‘limitless’ self.
People got up and did amazing things.
Shy teenagers who had not spoken much all weekend belted out songs that they had always wanted to sing.
People cried. People danced. Talked. Called their parents and told them they loved them. Told people scary things that they had never said aloud before, to anyone.
Some pretty powerful stuff happened on that stage.
Last weekend was organised by The Reach Foundation, an organisation aimed to empower and inspire teenagers to find purpose and a greater sense of self. The best bit? It’s not run by professionals telling young people how to lead their lives, it’s run by the young people themselves. Young people who have been through Reach programs and are learning to facilitate and organise a camp; skills that they can take into their lives. (A bit different to my own ‘learning’ at McDonalds where I thought being in charge of the fry station was the pinnacle of responsibility.)
The weekend was a mix of activities, emotional exploration and fun.
Me? I was there as a wellbeing person, to support the crew, give feedback, and any extra support to those needing it. Being my first camp, I felt a little out of place myself at times. It was hard to try not to step in and take control, part of the learning is letting these young people run the camp themselves. I had to fight every piece of my super organised being to not laminate 587 spreadsheets, delegate tasks and yell through a megaphone at them. That was not my gig. At times I was not quite sure where to step in or out and this I guess I will learn this at more Reach camps over time.
Returning home on Sunday night I found myself bawling to The Ginger Hunk on the couch. I was so grateful for the things I had growing up. I was so grateful for the love I have for him. For the Cat. For our home.
Having clothes. Having money. Growing up in one house. Not moving. Not having my parents go through different relationships. Knowing I could get help when I needed it. Trusting adults. Feeling loved and wanted. Still wanting to talk to my Mum and Dad every single day.
I want these to tell these young people that these horrible years do not define your life forever. Nor does the person you are at school. I am still changing and learning. Still scared of what my parents think. Still doubt myself at times. Still go through phases thinking I am shit and not good enough for anything and a nobody. We all do.
But we learn to listen to these negative voices less and less as we get older. We learn to be braver. We learn to believe in ourselves. We learn to give less of a shit what other people think of us.
I want to tell them that the person you are in high school won’t matter much in the future.
It is the geeky kid that will marry the hottest girl. The quiet kid that will create some software and make a million dollars. The ‘perfect’ kids will crumble and will not be so perfect after all.
#I do not mean they will crumble, as in fail, I mean they will peel off their layers. We are all the same underneath.
I want to tell them that them that they will carve out their own spot in the word, because it’s there, just for them, waiting for them to find it. And the best bit? Life is long, and you have a super long time to make mistakes, learn and start again. I have been a social worker, a writer, a triathlete, a yoga buff, an anxious person and a calm person and I can’t wait to see how much more I will continue to learn and change.
I was left inspired, humbled (and exhausted) just to be a part of it.