Growing Up but never Grown Up

The other day I got home to find an A4 envelope sitting on my desk. The Inspire Foundation had sent me their Annual Report, full of factoids on youth mental health, quotes from friends and other young people and an insight into an organisation that has been part of my life for the last six years.  Hidden between the pages of the report sat a handwritten note from our Youth Involvement Co-ordinator, who after years of service with Inspire is moving to a new career in the education space.

Brooke, it read, and I was pleasantly surprised to see my middle name used by such an old friend. How time has flown! It's been so amazing watching you over the past 4-5-6 years! To go from a shy teenager to a confident and even smarter young lady - it's awesome. I have enjoyed every second working with you. I'm looking forward to seeing everything you achieve. N.

My very first Inspire workshop was N's first as Youth Involvement Co-ordinator, her first foray into Inspire staff after being a Youth Ambassador for many years. Together, we learnt our roles, changed with the organisation, grew up and helped reduce stigma around youth mental health while attempting to make millions of (young) Australians happier.

It wasn't until I received that letter that I reflected on just how much I had changed since those early days with Inspire.  I remember clearly the amazing feeling of meeting my forum-buddies on the plane from Melbourne to Sydney, then more again when we arrived at the Sydney offices. Of how three days together made us the firmest of friends. Of how we stuck ReachOut.com stickers on the side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, skipped down the street shouting at the top of our lungs "www.reachout.com.au/givedepressionthefinger" to be heard by whomever was walking past.  I remember how I had found a community of people who finally understood what it felt like to want to change the world.

In the years hence, there have been many times that I've felt that surge of happiness, of connection and of change so strong that it feels a little like an elevator accelerating faster than gravity. Every time you get a group of passionate people in one space, you make the world spin a little faster.  The tweetups at conferences, the minds unravelling problems at unconferences, the gatherings at The Hub, Entrepreneur events, VibeWire and FutureMed have all provided mental fodder, intellectual stimulation and drive to keep doing great things.

In growing up, however, it has become increasingly clear that those fertile green pastures for these powerful, optimistic yet practical minds have one massive challenge - getting that message to the public. We have so many streams in which we can publish ideas, yet we are all inundated with 'causes'. It's almost impossible to avoid the fatigue that comes with constant concern about the state of the world. It becomes increasingly more difficult to tackle the insurmountable challenges.

Until you stop. Reflect.

What can you do one step at a time?
Talk to one person - the boy making your coffee, the girl on Twitter with a view different to your own. When forced to explain your own views, you may see more of the other person's perspective and perhaps come to improved ideas that will work for your both.
Write it down - plan out what you want to do and how. Little happens without working out where you're going. The act of commiting thought to paper (or e-note) clarifies thought.
Make it an idea worth spreading - imagine what you would say if you were on a TED stage and projecting to the world. Are you considering all parties? Are you using positivist language?
Put the power in the people - can you finance these projects yourself, ask for help from an organisation you know or enlist the general public? Don't wait for someone else to do it - ask others to do it for you.

Growing up is about learning, about changing, about taking mistakes and 'failures' and turning them into something useful.

Today, I had the opportunity to reflect on my journey with Inspire and just how much I have grown up in the past six years. To see again the bright future I had envisaged after my first Inspire workshop and just how much brighter the world is now than I had ever expected it to be.

Grow. Reach higher, become bigger and better. Like a tree, become a shelter for seedlings. Enjoy the sunshine, drink lots of water and keep your soil healthy. Remember that the leaves you shed and the end of good things return to the soil to make you and your peers stronger. You will always be growing. But you'll never be grown up.

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