#7 December Retreat Reflection: Messy is Good

“Our success hinges on the ability to take risks and be vulnerable in front of others”

I care a lot about what people think about me. Lately, this has taken up a lot of my time. I overthink the things that I do, replay the things that I say over and over in my mind, and worry about others’ perceptions of me. I fear I don’t belong places, that people don’t want me, and, worst of all, that my input is not valued. Leading up to this What’s the Story retreat, these feelings were making me very tired. I was taking a class at the college, and I was the only high school student. Wednesday was the last day of class, and I had to give my final presentation in front of everyone-in Spanish. I truly felt like I didn’t belong, because I didn’t even go there. Everyone seemed so much older and more mature than me, and for some reason their judgement felt so important to me. But the presentation was not the only thing that made me stressed; the whole semester I avoided talking in class, because I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear what I had to say. I was not able to take a risk and be vulnerable in front of others. 

So, to be totally honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to the retreat. Not because I wasn’t passionate about my topic or the work we were doing, but because I didn’t want to have to worry any more about what other people thought about me. It just seemed like a whole other opportunity for fear, judgement, and insecurity.

But I thought about it a little more, and I decided it would actually be a great experience for me to try to overcome some of my fears. I set a goal: I wasn’t going to let my fear of judgement stop me from sharing my opinion, contributing to the group, and having fun.

I started with small interactions; saying “hello” and “how are you?” without overthinking it. I even tried to branch out and talk to new people, even though I felt comfortable with two of my close friends from school. As Saturday progressed, I became more and more confident.  When we met in our social action teams, I wanted to talk about how I felt our team wasn’t super clear on our vision. Some people in our group were more interested in food waste, and others food insecurity. And while we knew we were going to combine them, we didn’t quite agree on how. I considered not speaking up, but I remembered my goal and shared my perspective. It was hard to shut off the voice that tells me to worry about other people’s opinions, but it got easier with practice. Obviously, I still worry about a lot of things, but I didn’t let it get in the way of working with a team. 

I think a lot of this has to do with having an open or closed mind, as was mentioned in the TED talk. I like to think I am open towards others, most of the time at least, but I think my mind is very closed when it comes to myself. I like everything I do to be perfect, and I want everyone to think of me perfectly as well. I also like things to be black and white, not messy-a word that I heard many times this weekend. Coming into the retreat, I felt like things were a little messy. At the last retreat, there was some conflict in the What’s the Story community that made me nervous this one would very tense. Additionally, I was still a little fuzzy on how we could effectively connect food waste and food insecurity and I got frustrated trying to wrap my head around it, because it seemed so broad and daunting. Fortunately, the conflict was addressed right at the beginning of the retreat! It felt really good to talk about the environment and how we could improve it, rather than ignore the problem. In my social action team, we talked more about our topic. In all honesty, I don’t think I came away with a clearer image of our vision. There are just so many areas in which food is wasted, and we weren’t really able to narrow our focus in on one area or audience. But then I realized that it might always be a little messy, until the end at least. With every interview, we may learn something new, and question something we thought to be true. This is a process, and maybe it will be more black and white at some points and may it will be a little more gray at others. So I have decided to set myself a new goal for the coming months: I will accept the messiness, because it is inevitable, and I think that something really great will come out of it.

On a broader level, our team is going to interview a variety of people about our topic over the next few months. We have split up various interviews, but there are still several that need to be divided. We will continue to discuss this through Slack and our weekly Google Hangouts, which we plan to do every Sunday at 7. Three of us live near Middlebury, so it will be relatively easy to interview with each other and trade off the media kit. However, Aidan lives 2 hours away from the rest of us and so it will be very important for all of us to communicate who, when, and where we will be interviewing so that we can organize the camera logistics.

Personally, I think I am responsible for taking risks and feeling vulnerable in the group. I will continue to practice speaking up without fearing judgement, and feeling comfortable with a little bit of confusion. I also think it will be really important for me to ask for help, especially with the camera. I tend to keep my questions to myself and hope I figure things out instead of admitting I am lost. Again, I think this is because of fear of judgement.

I am really looking forward to conducting interviews and continuing with our project! I am so excited to see where it takes us (even if it is a little messy along the way).

Feature Image by Cam Adams (Unsplash)


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