Riding the wave

This week my first paid commission as a freelance writer has come to fruition – in the August issue of Venture Travel Magazine – and I have to say it feels amazing to finally see my name in print. More amazing, in fact, than I’d dared to imagine, and all of a sudden I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose where my writing is concerned that in recent weeks and months had begun to dissipate.

Much as my inner critic would like me to believe I’m not good enough to be a ‘proper’ writer, and my monkey mind would have me swinging endlessly from one type of writing to another (never able to decide which one to pursue and therefore never pursuing any at all) this little victory tells me my writing is good enough, and that the only person blocking the path to success is me.

My beautiful friend Emma Charlotte Bridget Bailey, who is getting married next weekend and who, as coincidence (or fate) would have it I also happened to meet on the same travelling adventure as the one from which my article for Venture Travel Magazine was gleaned, sent me this quote today as encouragement to keep going with my writing:

Brutus:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

“Ride the wave and see where it takes you” was Emma’s advice, and I see no reason whatsoever not to take it 🙂 xx

Why we should be proud of our young people

This afternoon I accompanied two senior members of my charity’s youth-led consultancy board (a group of Teens and Toddlers graduates who now help other young people to continue their personal and professional development, as well as themselves being helped by the charity on an ongoing basis through initiatives like corporate mentoring, work placements and signposting to relevant opportunities) to the Hackney University Technical College in order to do some filming for an exciting new youth initiative (which we’re not yet at liberty to discuss in the public arena). [As an aside, one of the two people I went with also now happens to be my colleague, which goes to show what a great job the charity does in helping young people to develop!]

The filming was coordinated entirely by year 10 students, and it was so incredibly inspirational to see how professional and focused they were, from the cameraman to the interviewer and everyone in between. What I personally found particularly uplifting was watching our young people talking to the students about how the charity had helped them, and seeing how enthusiastic they all were about this project and the prospect of working together in the future.

There will always be the odd down day in any job, but if ever I needed a reminder why I do this job it was this afternoon’s experience. This kind of frontline interaction is exactly what I’ve felt was missing in my previous jobs, and it’s both a privilege and an honour to be able to work closely with such fantastic young people on a regular basis.

Anyone with doubts about the future of today’s youth need only look to our YLCB and the Hackney UTC students to see there’s still so much to be hopeful about. Far from being a lost cause, on the basis of what I witnessed today we have every reason to be proud of the younger generation. Many of them are the leaders of tomorrow, and I have high hopes they’ll achieve great things.

There’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ kid

I’ve just got back from my first afternoon visiting a Teens and Toddlers project at a nursery. Much as I’m ashamed to admit it I did have preconceptions about what the teenagers would be like. I’d assumed they’d be surly and uncommunicative, and that it would be difficult to engage with them, especially given that the teens on our programme are chosen precisely because they’re deemed to be more ‘at-risk’ (of dropping out of school, having children young etc.) than their peers.

But I’m delighted to say my experience was a total eye-opener and my preconceptions have been shelved. The six boys on the project I visited are all thirteen years old, and whilst they are typical teenagers who don’t always listen, aren’t all that keen on looking you in the eye and occasionally act up, on the whole they’re really lovely kids.

Classroom sessions aside, the real joy for me was seeing the way the boys interacted with their ‘toddlers’ in the nursery. It was a gloriously sunny afternoon which meant the toddlers were racing around outside in the play area. One of the boys had arrived at the nursery fuming about having had a personal possession stolen at school, and the facilitators were initially reticent about allowing him into the nursery to see his toddler, lest he carry his anger through to their session. Once he was out there, however, he was totally unselfconscious and behaved impeccably with his toddler. He even had a number of toddlers gathering around him to play because he was so much fun to be with.

Another boy, who had in the earlier classroom session refused to look any of us in the eye and acted bored, came alive with his toddler and spent ages lying on the ground play-fighting with them. I saw each of the six interacting with their toddlers in such a heart-warming way that it made me see every one of them in an entirely new light. When we returned to the classroom after the session with the toddlers they were alive with enthusiasm and keen to talk about the progress they had made with their toddlers.

At one point in the classroom we discussed what age would be the right age to have children. All the boys unanimously agreed that older than twenty five was ‘past it’ as far as they were concerned, which made me – a childless woman of thirty one with no immediate plans to have children – laugh. It’s been so long since I was their age I’d forgotten how old twenty five seems; like a lifetime away, though of course it’s really not.

Watching the boys – and the toddlers, come to that – today, it really wasn’t obvious that they have turbulent home lives. But I was reliably informed by the facilitator that some of them have an awful lot on their plates given their age. It’s hard enough being a teenager without having a host of problems to deal with in your personal life.

I’ve come away feeling more certain than ever that the work my charity’s doing with vulnerable children and disadvantaged teenagers is vital for the future of this country’s young people. No young person is inherently a ‘bad kid,’ it’s just that some of them need extra help to navigate their way through turbulent periods in their lives and stay on the right track. Shouldn’t every young person in that situation have the right to such help?

Meeting the boys today made me think of the boys I taught in Tanzania in 2007, some of whom were about the same age then as these boys are now. I wonder what became of them and where they are now.