“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ― Socrates
It’s been eight years since I stepped into my first Youth Empowerment and Leadership Program as a participant. By then I knew enough to have developed a deep respect for the process that happened over that five weeks, but I had no idea how intimately I would one day come to be involved with making it happen. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to quote the Grateful Dead but, as I sit at my desk in the Shift Offices for the last day all I can think is “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” And it’s been awesome.
I would be lying if I didn’t speak to the struggles of leading and growing a small non-profit that does “strange” work and has no guaranteed funding. There have been plenty of stressful moments, both organizationally and as a holder of so many painful experiences of our community’s young adults. Yet, I think what I will remember most is the many moments I’ve felt like I was the luckiest girl in the world, getting to witness the building of a large community of folks who are kinder to themselves and each other.
The gratitude I take away is for my own growth as a person and a leader but, most importantly, as a parent. I will never know what my parenting would look like today if I had not had the blessing of the perspective I’ve gained at Shift, but I can empathize with the many struggles I see in others. It’s a joke that kids don’t come with instructions, but it’s also true and I like to say that we’re all just playing house. The gift I’ve been given is to hear from kids the things they cannot always find a way to tell their parents about what they want, need and feel. I’ve learned when not to take it personally and just as my four year old outgrew hitting, my 14 year olds also outgrow some of their behaviors in the next few years. I’ve learned that the attachment parenting that I wanted to foster when my kids were tantrumming toddlers is all the more relevant in the teen years and I thank my kids for sharing their worlds with me.
When I see the space that all this great learning has taken place, I see a circle of folks, much like the “Circle of Friends” candle holder many folks are familiar with from our programs. This organization has attracted an incredible village and I am honored to stand among you – Wayne, Lisa, Mike, Trish, Jacqueline, Amelia, Thomas, Becky, Ben, Chris, Austin and Aja. The most important thing any of you ever brought to this party is yourselves and you’ve all made it fulfilling and fun.
As we welcome Aja Shada and Abbie Bandtstra as our new Executive and Program Director, it’s time to put new intentions into the flame. Mine will be for continued growth and joy and a limitless expansion of possibilities. You are gonna rock it!