I used to believe that legacies were about children and inheritance of heirlooms and antique furniture. I used to believe legacies were for the rich and famous like Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg. I used to believe a lot of things that I don’t anymore, am I jaded, more experienced, older, maturer? I scoff whilst writing this in a cynical inwardly way. Like only I understand the joke, only my inner voice understands what that means; or inner child, as the psychologists or mindfulness community might say.
I travelled abroad recently and had this notion to bring my books, my journals and downloaded a few podcasts to really keep my mind active and engaged intellectually. (I scoff again) Did I read any of them, no. I stayed present to the moment, had pockets of beautiful conversations with some inspiring individuals and exercised hard, well hard for me. Whilst away I believed I would be discovering all these different paths of who I was (existential questioning we all do), what was I to learn on this solo travel. So much of what I learned was seeping its way through upon my return home and not abroad at all. I realised many things about myself, I don’t like the cold, I acclimatise really quickly to the exotic weather (yes, I have many continents in my blood line), I love travelling and it was freeing to do it alone. #yesmyboyfriendapproved and #noididntneedhisapproval
What I realised is that I had taken on the weight and woes of my family and I was discovering who I was in the process. A journey that will never end until my last breath.
So, back to legacies, I started working with the Ben Kinsella Trust and Head Held High just before Christmas on a programme called ‘The Best You’.
Sometimes, I believe, in life we have these serendipitous moments which we either listen to or ignore; what I call the ‘universal alignments’. I’ve been turning the volume low for the last few years without trusting the universe to let things happen. (Now, I know that might sound a bit whacko but most people who know me, knows that I am spiritual). When others come first before your needs, it takes a life changing experience to allow you the time to re-assess your needs are a priority and that is not selfish!
So, ‘The Best You’ programme is motivational for teenagers to get them thinking about their futures, how they can make different choices to protect themselves and to discuss the prevalent rise of knife crime. I worked with an amazing woman, Tash, who has been doing this work for six years and it really shows. There are so many moments in my life where I feel so damn lucky to meet people who not only inspire me right to my core but also I feel so privilege to see how committed, passionate and caring they are in their work, and Tash is one of them.
There’s no time for ego, this isn’t about us, this is about them! I have cried more over this programme and felt so deeply from my soul, than I ever have in crying out of sadness or anger.
The programme started in January, all the teenagers in the group knew people who had been affected by knife crime or they themselves had been affected by knife crime. The programme had seven teenagers take part, lasted for six weeks, took place in their school with a visit to the Ben Kinsella exhibition.
Was I affected? Yes, every week I went into the classroom, and then onto my full-time job. On my second week, I sent a text to Tash to say how much respect and admiration I had for her knowing how long she had done this work for. I then asked my work colleague if I could have a hug. I cried on my colleague’s shoulder and felt two things “hope” and “progress”. I could see the cogs starting to turn, the pennies dropping, the trickle of change, you could feel the shift in the room when someone had been honest and vulnerable. Every week everyone came, they didn’t have to participate, they didn’t have to attend, the class wasn’t compulsory but every week we saw the same faces and kept reminding them of the reasons we were there. We were there for them, to open their eyes to who they could be, accepting responsibility for their choices, having the opportunities to change their responses to situations.
I felt very much this was a learning experience for me too, what was I doing to be the best person in my life, for my partner, for my family and friends; applying those things that I was saying was tough. I learned things from my friends which questioned who I was in the friendship and staying open and receptive is one of the hardest parts of being human; to not judge and to not be offended.
Today, in our last session together, I was sad that I was not going to be there next week. One of the lads said “why was the programme not going on for longer?” and I felt Tash and I had done our job in that they could see the benefit of this type of work. I felt like all those podcasts I had listened to where they ask the interviewee “what advice would you give your younger self”, I felt like this was my opportunity, I had had six weeks to impart my wisdom, life experience and emotional maturity but I couldn’t find the words and I’m more “story-teller” than “short and concise” type of person. How can you know what to say that relates to the work you are doing, how can you say all the things you wish you could say without the abbreviations and use all the expletives the schools deny you of. How can we make a change in the short one and half hour class that we get?
When you work with someone who gives you the space to lead part of the session and lets you run with a personal experience, all I can say is today was a heart opener. I shared something that even some of my close friends don’t even know about but laying one’s heart out there is not weak, it’s strength in being able to be vulnerable and open. Brene Brown’s Ted Talk covers this on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. I left the space like I always have with two words in my mind and heart, ‘Hope’ and ‘Progress’.
There’s no selfies or “let’s keep in touch” but there were “thank yous” and a hug. Priceless! I’d been thinking all week what my parting words would be and this was them “I want to meet you in the street in 4-5 years time, shake your hand and hear you tell me what you have been doing. I don’t want to see you on the newspaper because you’ve become a victim”. I am sad not to be going in next week and shaking each one of their hands and saying hello. I am sad that six weeks doesn’t feel like enough time but I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them, to be inspired by them and to set goals for myself because of them.
So, I come back to legacies, is this my legacy or theirs? I think it’s our legacies that we create and hope we pass on. I have hope in the future of the next generation.
Thank you Ben Kinsella Trust, thank you to Head Held High and to Patrice.