A special Teen Spirit session looks at identity and asks the question: do you know who you are?
I’m in a group of seven teens, pretending we’re in a train carriage, listening to a fellow passenger bemoaning their fate.
“I’m a failure!” cries our volunteer-come-actor for the evening. “I used to be a successful sportsman but now I can barely hit a shot! I’m good for nothing – a complete failure I am!”
Teen Spirit is asked how they’d reply. A few shrug shoulders but the youngest pipes up: “Failing isn’t the same as being a failure!” Another adds: “Yeah man, you’re right, failure is just relative. Even if you’re not a success at sport anymore, you can probably do really well in something else.”
We decide that offering a kindness to a stranger in a situation like this – rather than turning the other cheek or worse, poking fun – would make us feel better about ourselves, and help us feel like we’re a good type of person.
After a quick turnaround, our little group is suddenly huddled together under a ‘parachute’. It instantly creates intimacy, a feeling that we’re all safe together. Different scenarios are written on little scraps of paper to encourage conversation.
“I can only be really honest about myself at Body & Soul”
“Yeah, that’s true. I feel like keeping my HIV status a secret creates a barrier between me and my friends. It’s like I’m lying to them.”
“It’s like carrying something heavy on your shoulders. The only time I feel free of that is when I’m at Body & Soul.”
Everyone chips in with their own story, and you can almost see the weight on those shoulders lifting, ever so slightly, raising the parachute a little further above our heads.
Our last group of the night encourages us to write and perform our own song – in just 15 minutes! Our group is unfazed – we have a rapper, a tambourine man and a big bongo fan is our midst.
Our lyrics are common misconceptions people can make based on your appearance.
“I’m wearing a hoody – they think I’m a robber / Because I’m a Muslim, they think I’m a terrorist / I come from Nigeria, they think I do voodoo”
Agreeing that these stereotypes are unfair and completely untrue in reality, we decide to harmonise each line with the words:
“I’m not that person / I’m not that person / I’m not that person.”
It’s a pretty euphoric end to the evening. One of our number was visiting Body & Soul for the evening from Leicester. He was asked to rap on our self-penned tune and nailed it – he leaves for his train with bright, shining eyes and, like us all, a bit more of an idea of the somebody we’d like to be…”
Thanks to Teen Spirit volunteer Geri for this blog x