This post is going to be largely out of character for me, because it takes something monumental for me to reach across the gap of human communication and spend the effort trying to connect how I feel to anyone who is not closest to me. At the same time I have high hopes that if I keep throwing my words out into the inter-webs that I will find more sure-shelter friends and peers with similar motivations to my own.
The video to below made me cry and think and write yesterday. I am starting to feel the ripples of what paying-it-forward does, but it will be a few years yet before I will be able to fully convince myself that what I am doing has “real” value. Thankfully, these days the self doubt is not paralyzing, just annoying and occasionally distracting for a few days at a time.
Here is the paying it forward video, to which I credit much of this post:
We are currently decompressing after running the young adult program at Beyond IQ for the third year. For reference, the age range is approximately 12ish-27ish and some participants drift between there and the adult or kids’ programing. Here is a PDF of the schedule this year.
If you attended this year, please consider filling out the survey, if you have not already. If you have, thank you! Some of the responses have been surprising and having actual data lets us adjust the program to be more dynamic, less lecturey and more connecting.
In a lot of ways the event was incredibly energizing, and in another way, isolating. I simply did not have enough social left over to truly connect with many people deeply or to interact with the adult program in any length. By the end of the event I felt like I missed opportunities for small group discussion (both in and out of the YA program) and hurt the feelings of more than one person who is having trouble asking for attention at times when it is physically possible to give it to them. I also got to see many of my favorite people. I got to connect with three future professionals in the field who are all within 3 years of experience of where I am and I am pretty excited about the idea of having some colleagues who have been doing this for less than 25 years (as much as at the same time I value those who have).
We also created a spectacular program, connected many young adults to a community that can break their isolation and appreciate their similarities as well as differences. We did a great job mentoring two first-time presenters and allowed a large number of new people to start thinking more about the life curriculum often overlooked in school, as well as having a good time. Mostly people were kind and responsive.
It took 15 people working behind the scenes and not to make the young adult program a success. They helped with organizing, ran workshops, managed real word logistics and allowed me with not try being in 3 places at once. While I can not figure out which of you would be comfortable being credited here by name, I would like to express appreciation and make it clear that it takes a lot of people to pull of a good performance. (it kinda felt like there was community support and stuff 🙂 ) Thank You!
The thing that got to me the worst socially was some of the sibling relationships and bits and pieces of ageism. Exclusion, judgement and indifference was not something I was expecting to see. I am hoping to create an atmosphere where no one is told what to do or what not to do or who does not belong as long as no one is being injured. Where people who are behaving in completely appropriate ways are not criticized or excluded for being the wrong age. Where more than one person breaks the bystander effect if someone gets upset or hurt.
I also want endless chances (for everyone) to try and make mistakes and do better and sometimes fail, without carrying the burdens of years of failure at every try. I would not do well if every “bad” thing I have done over the last 5 to 20 years was still haunting me, and I detest bullying in all forms.
People from different backgrounds and socio-economic statuses interacted from a distance, occasionally bridging the gap doing things like singing “Let it Go”, but not yet connecting with ease. I very much appreciate those who took the time to bridge the gap to welcome the newcomers. (Since it took me 3 years to feel comfortable at Beyond IQ, I expect that much of this will smooth out in time.)
Everyone I talk to, be they from Iowa, or Cambridge, or Lawrence, or Puerto Rico, or Russia, largely shared the same hopes and concerns, and yet we are still all learning to bridge the language gaps of perceived cultural difference. As a first-generation immigrant from Russia, I promise that anyone who is from America and can find a common ground with me, can certainly find some things in common with each other. Or really, almost anyone else who is also willing to try. (I do not think of myself as Russian and I would be very very sad if anyone tried to pigeonhole me based on this information.)
- Do you spend time thinking about how to become a fanatically independent, competent, respected adult?
- Do you hope that people will love you for who you are and that you will have at least a few sure-shelter friends?
- Do you struggle with intensity of feelings and how the world sees you being not exactly in sync with who you are?
- Do you dream of a world were people do not get hurt or treated unjustly due to things that are not their fault?
If you said yes to even two of these, you have A LOT in common with everyone at this event.
I know it is scary to break isolation and bridge the gaps of differences, but if we are going to have any kind of social justice or equality, I think it is probably crucial that we at least try a few times. I have learned that sometimes it takes longer than a weekend for people to connect, and I want it to be better and faster soon. I need to both learn how to facilitate better and probably find two more people who can handle our tribe to help next year.
We also learned that nearly everyone wants more small group discussions, more “How to Adult” topics and organized-ahead-of-time sing alongs and several people requested more social and ice-breaker activities. I wonder what we need to do to have more conversation and at the same time keep the ambient noise level sub-painful. From the outside our part of the event went nearly seamlessly and yet it could be so much more.
We hope to help people develop the courage to bridge all the gaps and connect. I want to talk with people about writing some “It gets better” posts that are not LGBTQIA specific, but more broadly deal with “before you diagnose yourself with depression or anxiety, make sure you are not surrounded by assholes.” I also want to address the unique challenges of career and financial independence in what passes for an economy these days (but do so constructively and accessibly). Also looking for descriptions of experiences at BIQ, specifically the feelings and thoughts behind them. I do not like to obscure all the harshness of reality, and yet think hope and guidance are essential.
I feel like there is room to organized a personal growth camping event in the White Mountains soon, but I am not certain if this year has room for it. I wonder if there is room and want to do a monthly online google hangout. For organizers? For YAs? Both together?
I also wonder who might be worth talking to about facilitating life skills and similar discussion groups next year, who would do it without much if any financial incentive in an environment where it takes people a little while to figure out whom behind the scenes to thank, but afterwards provides so much support and community that it is kinda unbelievable.