Becky’s blog: Tackling the world’s biggest fearMarch 26, 2014
I stood before almost 200 grade 10 students at a local high school. My hands held tightly the papers I had prepared. Pages providing the lines for a play I didn’t feel ready to perform. The story of how I ended up there in the first place–reading from shaking leafs, words wavering, feeling lost and uncertain. I was a ball of nerves, impatient of my own need for practice.
The school was welcoming, and the teens were listening. I’ve never considered myself a storyteller. The sailing club I went to as a teenager gave out gag awards at the end of the year. When I was 14, my non-sequitur, snippets of stories earned me the “Storytelling” award. It was a big surprise when I was selected to join Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) in launching the YACC Cancer Challenge in schools this year.
The YACC Cancer Challenge aims to have an open discussion with students about dealing with the challenges of life and overcoming adversity. A survey of more than 350 schools revealed that 70 per cent of high school students have had a diagnosis of cancer in their family. Young adults in high school are already familiar with the challenges of growing up; dealing with peer pressure, family pressure, teacher pressure and a multitude of personal expectations. Young adults understand the prospect of planning for the future, thinking of education, families, financial independence, and the freedom of choice. It’s a lot to have your plate, and every plate is different. Through common threads, the fabrics weaving our lives connect. We are different pieces of the same patchwork cloth. We get it. Young adults are in the best position to understand young adult issues, and speak up on their behalf.
I’m delighted to have an avenue to explore this age-old art. I’ve always considered myself a writer, but not a storyteller. I’ve always loved language, and have yet to learn to really use it out loud. This has meant that taking stories of my personal experience public to schools and other events has been a challenging process for me. I have experienced a pre-performance nervousness that I haven’t felt in years, butterflies in the stomach. I have felt emotions from recollections of old feelings, and past events. I have had time to step back from the memory mirror of what things were like then, and feel those emotions, but see them more clearly. I have had fleeting feelings of failure, and incapability. I have had an immense amount of support and guidance both professionally and personally. I have felt a sense of accomplishment and good fortune.
That sense of accomplishment came after my talk the next morning at another school. A gymnasium with more than double the amount of students; I was nervous again. There were fewer butterflies, and they seemed happy enough flit gently from time to time. I remembered to take deep breaths, breathing from my belly, smiling, and giving myself time for grounding. My papers stayed on the table. I referenced them far less than the day before. I was able to make eye contact, and relax more on stage. I finished that talk feeling really good about how it went. I look forward to seeing how my skills and stories develop over time.
In my reflection of the second day, I found a few recurring themes of challenges I’ve faced. Check back soon to learn more about these challenges and the things I’ve done to help overcome them!