What is it you truly care about? By Chris P.
Returning to Australia in January after living and studying abroad last year, I was left itching to start to get down on some youth action back at home in Melbourne.
Inspired by the youth movements and activism I encountered overseas, I was curious to think more about what issues mattered the most to me and the best ways to get involved in what I was most passionate about.
I think I was trying to answer the question, “What gets me fired up?”
After hearing about the Young Initiators Program from one of my lecturers, my curiosity grew. But, in the back of my mind there’s always skepticism. Having attended numerous leadership programs over the years, I must say: it’s been hit or miss. However, eager to learn more about youth action, I concluded that this wasn’t a chance that I could overlook.
Like the classic over-thinker I am, I was left wondering what the program would be about and what it would entail? How can we begin to discover what it is to become an active citizen? So many unanswered questions??
Over the last year my understanding of youth and activism has shifted quite drastically. Studying abroad in Amsterdam I had the amazing opportunity to take one of the best courses I’ve ever studied: Youth cultures in a transnational context. It left me in equal parts inspired and daunted.
It’s becoming more and more easy to hear and see what’s going on in every corner of the world. There are movements of youth all numbering in the tens of thousands, mobilising on issues they care about like schools for climate change (started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg - who just got nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize!), the youth political party in Thailand opposing the military Junta, and youth-led gun control rallies in the US.
It’s amazing to see what young people are getting up to around the world. However, in the sea of voices and opinions, one can easily be bombarded with too much information and feel lost. The rise of connectivity has paradoxically also led to the polarisation and disconnection of views.
There is of course a danger attached to the flooding of viewpoints going on today: to forget what is going on in the here and now - in our individual and local areas.
One of the very first things we did in the Young Initiators Program was meet as equals in a circle. Sitting in that little circle invited a feeling of acceptance and understanding. With a paper tree in the middle of us we sat around and created a group agreement. Open-mindedness and empathy were the values that I added.
Listening attentively and deeply to what we all had to say, I realised that there was something special going on in that circle. In such a time of disconnection and polarisation, it can be difficult to truly see the nature of what is going on in the realities of others. Sitting there and being amazed at the unusual vulnerability within the circle, I realised that a movement needs to include the voices of everyone. After all, we need to co-exist together.
Reflecting on our inner selves and values to kick off the first day of the program, it was so interesting to sit around and listen to everyone’s stories and reflect on what mattered most to us here and now in such a caring environment. It’s so important to create such nurturing spaces to sit around and be heard; to not just listen but to actively engage in dialogue with one another so patiently and compassionately.
In the rush of everyday life: running around, studying, working, trying to maintain a healthy social life and scrolling through an endless sea of memes and online content in every spare moment, it feels like there’s little time to reflect on where we’re truly going. To really think about what really matters most to us.
Perhaps it is fair to say that sometimes we can get caught in the wave of everyday life and get lost? I think it happens to all of us and that’s okay.
But I think that the magic is in coming together and sitting around in a space like the Young Initiators Program. We learned about and practiced empathy and active listening: having the chance to sit still and listen so patiently to what everyone has to say so that we can come and move together, being careful not to leave anyone behind. It was a powerful experience.
If you’re still reading this, I have one thing to suggest:
Take a second. Grab a cup of tea. Turn off your mobile phone. Sit. Breathe. Notice with an open heart what is going on inside and around you …….and ask yourself: what is it that you truly care about?