Tuesday nights at 8pm have become a sacred time for me lately. I have had the privilege of working with a group of young women in Grade 12, (and two amazing educators) from Trafalgar Castle for several weeks now.
I was asked to support them through the groundlessness of this time. To help them navigate their emotions surrounding the loss of so many rites of passage. I wondered; how do I do that? Is it possible to offer comfort and to share true connection over a screen? Much to my surprise, it turns out, it is. Obviously it’s not as beautiful as gathering lakeside by a roaring campfire, but it is better than I imagined.
I have always been someone that is driven by purpose. Living aligned with my values has not even felt like a choice to me. It has simply been something I have had to do. I questioned whether or not I was the right person to help these young women along this long, winding path, only because I was not sure I wanted to contribute to more screen time for them. I decided it was a worthy adventure to embark on, and I am so grateful for our shared time and space.
As many of you know, ALIVE is an acronym for Adventure, Leadership, Individuality, Values and Empowerment. It took me a little while to see that we are all on the greatest adventure of our lives. It just looks different than the adventures I am used to. This one has no map, no guidebook, no risk management plan, nowhere to lay our heads and rest when we are weary. The dictionary says that adventure is to: engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially in the exploration of unknown territory.
I have to wonder, have we ever been in more of an unknown place?
Through my time working with the students from Trafalgar Castle, I have realized that ALIVE is well suited for this time in our history. Our name ALIVE (and its meaning) is more fitting than I first recognized. If there was ever a time to focus on leadership, it’s now. We are able to separate the true leaders from the ones who simply have a title. It’s a time for us to reflect on our individuality, to reassess and own our values, and to find ways to feel empowered, despite the daunting uncertainty. I had always believed that the skills we were teaching would be important in trying times, and now I can see that even more clearly. It just took me a while to get there.
This past Tuesday evening we discussed Nassim Taleb’s concept of anti-fragility (things that gain strength from disorder) and we did some writing together. I marvelled at what these young women created in a mere 17 minutes of free-flowing writing. They were asked to give it a title that represented their year. To begin with the words, “I can tell you this much”, and then roll into “If I look back far enough I can see…” Towards the end they were to talk about the losses, the gifts and why they feel stronger now.
Here is some writing through the lens of some truly inspiring young women who make me feel hopeful for the future, even during these times with no clear pathway forward.
I can tell you this much: 2020, the year that seemed so magical and potent in our eyes, is not what we thought. We called ourselves the Class of 2020 with prideful and smug faces. But now we learn that we took that magical number for granted. It took our lives, our school, our events, and our traditions. It took our time with friends; it took our opportunities to live. But were we living?
I can tell you this much- living out what you have always expected is not really living.
If I look back far enough, I can see disconnected connections. I can see untruthful truths. I can see isolation in the hearts of those surrounded. I see people running. Some backwards, some forwards. Rushing to finish off their days. To hustle from school to work to homework to facetime calls. Running to escape. I was never the fastest, but in this race, I sure was speedy.
We lost our routines. We lost time with the ones we love. We lost vacations. We lost teams and classes. We lost our legs in the race. How unfair. We could no longer hustle in our world; we lost our chance to escape. Everyone, all 7 billion of us, were now forced to confront. Confront the one in our hearts, the one in our minds and our souls. We could still pretend and avoid at the beginning. But then, when the isolation became physical, it overcame our egos and our pride. We had to change the only thing we had, ourselves. We had to make our minds a place so comfortable, we no longer needed to escape.
We are all stronger now. The surface of relationships and traditions and classes and teams was all gone. We learned purpose and true gratitude. We learned to value and to cherish. Once enough of us land in this place, the gates will open and the world will be so much more fruitful and genuine in our eyes, forever.
~ Student Writing
2020: Overcoming Fears
I can tell you this much
The year has not been what I expected
It has thrown us some curve balls
And I’m not sure where they’re headed
It has pushed me to be positive and learn to love the silence
While talking over zoom and receiving such great guidance
If I look back far enough
I can see a girl afraid of failure
A girl who’s a perfectionist
Some alone time would be her saviour
The losses are her senior year
But the gifts are quite extensive
From a global pandemic?
That's almost incomprehensive!
She learned to speak with family
And to get off of her phone
Before all of this chaos
The benefits were unknown
She learned to have gratitude
And learned to be alone
She learned to meditate
And finally get in “the zone”
Our senior year is cut short
But not forever gone
We will all come out stronger
And our lives will go on
One day we will forget the pain that this once brought
And instead we will remember the lessons that it taught
~ Student Writing
I can tell you this much, certainty is an illusion. It's comforting to think you have control. It’s nice to think you know how your day will go or what the next month or year will hold. But habits can easily turn into ruts. Where you slip into autopilot mode and underappreciate the people and moments of your day. It’s like routine keeps me from trying new things or taking risks even though there is no one telling me I can’t. In that way, knowing that everything is uncertain is liberating. It doesn't matter what you have gotten used to, change is constant. And even those things in your life that seem to defy the law of change will eventually succumb to the inevitable force.
If I look back far enough I can see a time when I lived my life so differently. I would hardly recognize myself now. I had different friends, lived in a different house, and filled my day with different activities and thoughts. To think that my life has changed so drastically, and will again in a couple years’ time hurts my head. The person I am today is just a piece of who I will become. Just another version. But I think it becomes clear when you view life in this way that I’m not striving for some perfect version or time in my life. Because it will come and then it will pass, as everything does. Change will continue until my journey comes to an end. So, I guess it's about enjoying the version I am at right now.
The losses of uncertainty might appear to be stability, comfort, peace of mind or well-being. But the gift is the promise of evolution. Thank god my conscious mind isn't in control, because at the first sign of safety and comfort I would just freeze everything and settle. But life will push you to keep experiencing and trying and refining. So, the gift of uncertainty is the freedom of not needing to figure it all out because you know you can never figure it all out.
Uncertainty keeps you moving whether you want to or not. So, you can embrace uncertainty and use it to make yourself stronger with each new experience and challenge, or you can resist uncertainty, and cling to what is known. I, however, will be choosing to embrace it and view it as something beautiful, powerful and full of potential.