Our stories matter
Recently, I was invited to a weekend workshop with other youth, like me, who had grown up in military Families; the purpose being to make short videos about our experiences. When I was asked to share my story about growing up with a Veteran parent and their struggles with PTSD and anxiety, I thought to myself, “What could I ever offer?” After having a one-on-one conversation with the man running the workshop, he made me realize that everyone has their own story and you never know who might gain a new perspective after hearing it. I somewhat reluctantly agreed to travel away from home and meet up with a group of eight strangers in a hotel to capture my childhood memories in a short video.
What I expected was that I would awkwardly stumble through the weekend and delve into my worst, and potentially most intense, moments of my life. What actually happened was I met other people who went through very similar things that I had, just with different details. I gained a new perspective from this experience. One that taught me that no matter how alone you feel, there are always others who have gone through a similar life experience. It just takes honesty and patience to understand that.
I was amazed that the other young adults were brave enough to share their experiences as well. We all got together, not as a somber group of troubled youths, but as remarkably resilient people. We all told our stories and spent an entire weekend together. It helped to shed light on an important lesson, not just for me, but for the other participants, the amazing staff from Atlas, and hopefully a few distressed youths who might stumble upon our stories and learn something.
Before the weekend, we had all sat through a few Zoom meetings with each other and shared our ideas for what we would talk about. Even after those meetings, I was incredibly nervous to go to the workshop. I think we all were. Regardless of my fear, I went with my head held high. On the first day, I was asked a few questions by the two women from Atlas. I answered honestly and didn’t expect any reaction from them, but they both told me that they thought my story was incredible. They thought of their kids and how they might feel hearing my story, and those of the others who participated.
I was touched, and I found it hard to not be emotional. All I could say was “Thanks.” I was amazed that two adults, who had experienced so much in life, had learned something from me. They shared that from my story they learned that as parents all you can do is try as hard as you can. Some days you might fall short of your personal expectations. Some days you might think of yourself as a failure as a parent. But, to your child, the most important thing is that you’re there for them. That you will always keep fighting for them.
The entire weekend and everyone involved in it gave me an eye opening experience and I am convinced now that sharing your story can do the same for others, instead of staying quiet about the pieces of our lives that have made us who we are. I just hope that as an underrepresented demographic that we always fight to be seen and heard. That we believe our stories do matter and that we never know who they might impact. You never know until you get up and give it your best.