Which Mask Do You Wear?


I seem to have had this reoccurring life-theme of late about not judging books by their covers and this post is yet another example of the rewards you can receive if you just open yourself up to the new.

The company I work for is in the process of developing a partnership with the ‘Leap’ who are an award-winning national youth charity that provides inspirational conflict management training and support to young people and the professionals working with them.

I have to confess, teenagers in general give me the shits, my usual exposure to them is in the form of those obnoxious little F’ers on the bus shouting and palvering while they play music over their phone speakers.  The music is questionable enough but the sound quality out of those speakers, now that is a crime against all things aural.

I realise I come to these views from a place of ignorance and that there are many sweet young people out there, I just don’t come across them in my everyday life.

So when the opportunity to meet the team at Leap, along with some of their young participants came about I had my reservations, especially when one young man stepped in to our offices and immediately got up in my colleagues face demanding a phone charger.  Okaaay.

So, having laid bare my prejudices before you I’m happy to say that within the first few minutes of our meeting my walls began to crumble as I started to see not just a group of youths but individuals with character and shyness and humor and sweet natures with positive futures ahead of them.

The ice breaker was the key, we went around the table to introduce ourselves and along with our names had to share something that not many people knew about us.  So, the mouthy kid at the end of the table became a young man with a fondness for maths and a longing to become an accountant, and that austere woman on reception became less scary because she likes to program dance music in her spare time….you get the picture.

In the end I was really impressed with the young people we met; coming in to a fancy office in the city and meeting oldies from a totally different world than them – they overcame nervousness and supported each other through those mind blank moments with encouragement and kindness.  Yes you could say they’re still a bit rough around the edges (so was I at that age) but I came away with hope in my heart that these select-somebodies were being given the life skills to overcome whatever obstacle life may put in front of them.  I really wish someone had taught me those lessons earlier in life, you cant regret life lessons but if they could’ve come to me a little easier, well, that would’ve been nice.

Last night I attended Leap’s Lighting the Fire 2017 awards event, which was presented and hosted by young people that have been through the program.  they did everything from standing on stage comparing, checking coats, serving canapes and drinks and clearing dishes – and they did themselves proud.

I hadn’t expected it to be an emotional evening but there were several moments of ‘barely keeping it together’ as brave souls shared their story’s and selfless Angels were awarded plaques for their outstanding work.

We all did a brief yet powerful exercise where we paired up and shared which masks we have worn.  It was a lesson in embracing vulnerability.  One lady shared that she’d started a new job  where the previous person had been there for 18 years and for a while she wore the ‘I got this’ mask, the presenters then asked this lady how that affected her job – she said that she was so busy pretending that she knew what she was doing she wasn’t open to advice from her new co-workers and was floundering.  When she finally took off the mask and was able to show a little vulnerability she had more genuine relationships and learnt more about the new role because she didn’t feel threatened and actually listened.  So thought provoking.

Once again I was blown away by the young people I met afterwards as they wandered between groups of business men and women, introducing themselves and telling us little bits about their lives and experiences with the program – I totally struggle with small talk at the best of times so massive kudos to em.

In 2016, Leap held 76 courses which helped 759 young people.  Having witnessed a small demonstration of the course style and met the beneficiaries of Leaps support I cant praise them highly enough for this vital work.

I have been humbled and enlightened.  The seed is now planted and my eyes are open, I’m not sure where it will lead but I know it’s going somewhere.

If you would like to learn more or get involved please see their website here: http://www.leapconfrontingconflict.org.uk/

Laters Navigators. x


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