At the age of almost thirty-one, I have the unique experience (my own) to be able to lean back, feet up, and reflect on my journey in life so far.
Let’s rewind. To a time not too long ago, (a few years in fact), when I was sitting at a bus stop in Frankston after completing another dire day working for my next dole cheque.
I was miserable.
I was living fortnight to fortnight on government payments, using a lot of that on rent and cheap, fast food (that wasn’t really cheap as it was accessible.)
I was 28 years old, and after years of short-lived jobs I hated, many unsuccessful attempts of tertiary study and a few mental breakdowns early on, I still felt like I had absolutely nothing to show for it.
However, I was so steeped in internal languish, I was measuring my ideas of success based on society and those around me.
I wasn’t yet awake to the idea of life purpose.
I wasn’t yet awakened to life.
As I sat there on that bus stop seat I spied a group of youths ambling along, hoods on, all in black, and something just snapped inside me.
I had attempted to do a course in youth work 3 years prior, I was immature, underprepared and not yet ready to help myself let alone others so I had quit to work on life, which had obviously had its strikes and gutters, but that fire, although fizzling, had always been there burning somewhere deep within me, since childhood even. To help others.
I then looked over at the used, op-shop bookstore I had just finished my day at, and I got on the bus, and went home, sat at the computer and reapplied to tafe for a Diploma in Youth Work. I had made the decision.
A year later, after completing both a certificate IV and Diploma in Youth Work and acing every subject with High Distinctions and accolades from my teachers, I was more than ready, in knowing myself, my purpose and my professional knowledge to go out into the world to help others.
After I left Tafe, fresh faced and ready to work, I applied for every youth and community job I saw pop up, and went further by approaching places that weren’t even advertising. I attended interview after interview, best dressed, confident and ready to learn.
But after rejection after rejection, and losing out to those more experienced (which of course I hold no grudge because in the end it is about the best care for young people) I was simply ready to give up. Aside from this, I had a terrible and abrupt end to the place I had started my placement and was doing volunteering at, when I was ejected due to opposing views on youth work, and the simple fact I had become a threat to the established hierarchy of a person who really should not be working with youth.
I took all this very personally, I was thinking what next. Am I just not good enough?
Am I that unlikeable?
Is it my look?
Am I not the image of a youth worker that fits in with the scheme of things?
This plagued me for about two months, I was fast slipping back into old thought patterns of existentialism and depression. Self-doubt. Languish.
There is a lot of interactions, serendipitous events and encounters both in the physical waking world and through intuitive lucid dreaming across the span of my whole life that led to this next moment…
I was standing in the shower, and like most potent, deep ah-hah moments in life come from places like the shower, a dream I had had, mixed with all those moments I mentioned above, all come together in one big epiphany; MANA.
What was this Polynesian word that had echoed through my mind and soul over the last few years. Right now, in this moment, water droplets carving a path through the foggy shower screen and through my mind, it unfolded before my eyes like an acronym:
Four words that changed my life path forever.
Soon after I begun to further research the meaning of this Hawaiian word, also found in Maori worldviews too.
It represents Personal Creative Energy or Life Force.
Some call it Chi, Ki, or Prana.
it is an energy that can be lost or gained in every action you take in life.
And as the various streams of thought, accumulated across my life, across all things I had started and let go, all the knowledge and experience I had gained from these different crossroads in my life until this point became one, tangible stream of thought, I saw a clear path carve its own way in my mind.
This applies to Youth Work, and more importantly, Mentoring.
I hopped out of the shower and into some loose clothing, almost forgetting to dry myself off, and sat at my computer for probably 8 hours straight, typing away, hunting and pecking at the keyboard like a man crazed maniac hardly stopping to eat or drink, and got all of these pent up ideas and concepts down on digital paper.
When I finally stopped I had set out the groundwork for a new framework based around storytelling, life purpose and mentoring.
over the next year I voluntarily mentored a few young people here and there, some more intensely than others, I applied all of my philosophies and concepts in this time, and I saw drastic positive effects with the young people I had approached and worked with. Some of it didn’t work the way I thought, but that was okay, it was rejigged and reapplied in different ways. It was trial and error, it was strikes and gutters, ups and downs.
It was new to most. Almost like guerrilla youth work. It was entirely grassroots based and never done in one location.
the beach was our office, which I found was received well by the various young people I took there.
There were late night meetings where a young person was in dire straits and simply needed an ear to listen or even just sit with while they delved into introspection and existential thought.
But always with a good outcome.
It was there I knew what I was doing was right.
I wasn’t barred by any bureaucracy or red-tape that would stop other youth workers from being accessible when times were at their worst.
I did as I pleased. And by doing so was able to help where it counted.
And in this mentorship, real mentorship I had the unique oppurtunity to do some real, solid, deep work with a very small handful of young people. Even if it was one meeting, or 20. They needed someone to talk to, a gardener of life, and I was always readily available, no appointment, or waiting list. only a referral from life.
As I went day by day, my work grew in other ways, I saw the need to help more, and I spent hours at a time thinking of ways I could make this little seed bigger. Reach more. Do more. Help more in my community.
I came to the conclusion that all those feelings I had felt in the past of doubt, self-worth, thinking I wasn’t good enough to work in the established agencies for a stable pay check, all were not true.
I simply didn’t fit the mould.
And that was a good thing.
My dream grew, it was becoming more real the more effort I put in.
In Hawaiian philosophy there is a belief that Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows.
This was certainly true in my case.
I wanted to work in schools, a huge pipe dream I thought, to have a MANA Mentor, a Alaka’I ( the Hawaiian spirit of Leadership) in every school across the Peninsula I lived in.
I was aiming for Secondary Schools, working with teens was all I knew, however my path lead me into the local primary schools, and ironically the one that was most accepting of this dream was the self-same school I attended as a child.
When I got real with myself, and got even realer with my dream and life purpose, I turned that dream into a tangible reality.
I got over my crippling self-sabotage and a volunteer became a career in grassroots youth mentoring, early intervention and coaching.
Of course I had those people who doubted my dream in some aspect or another, you’re always going to have those who doubt your work, especially when it’s something relatively unheard of or new, and most certainly by those who they believe you have become a threat to.
When you kick a wasps nest, you are gonna get stung, unless you are so clear and infallible in your purpose and self-belief that it acts as a natural repellent.
I was told many times, sometimes by people I admired, that I needed to suck it up and just do what everyone else was doing, work in the larger agencies and organizations, climb the ladders and hierarchies, wrap yourself in the red tape.
It bugged me until I realized their criticisms weren’t a reflection of me or my work, but their own journeys and idea of success based off their personal experiences.
I knew my path. And I set about walking that path in my own shoes. With full authorship over my narrative.
And that is something that I share with the youth that I work with, something I never fail to pass on; when they are walking in their own paths but being told which exit to take, but really being told to take the toll roads, paying a fee or facing a fine in the process.
I ask them; what is your story. And who are you letting fill the pages?
And my biggest takeaway from this question is the shock of hearing a lot of these young people have never been asked what THEY want in life. And What IS and ISNT working for them. How can we work side by side to alleviate that.
I wanted this blog post to be the first of many, to establish an origin story for things to come.
Setting the groundwork for a view into my work and life, and how I bring those two things together for purpose.
Because somewhere, someone is sitting at a bus stop contemplating what’s next in life.
and maybe a simple word, or image, or thought will lead them around that corner, firmly planting their feet onto a new life path. Becoming Peaceful Warriors in life, and carving out their own paths in their extraordinary lives.
Thanks for Reading.
Till Next Time.
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