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What you’re left with

Are we repositories for ideas and experiences? Storehouses for all that life, society and the people we meet have placed there. Education, culture, social realities all having played their parts in furnishing that space and attempting to guide its arrangement.

That sense of what we need in order to live well (Notes One). The awareness, understanding, knowledge, capacities, confidence with which we approach life and others. The fullness of that picture, perspectives from which it’s told, and underlying assumptions or expectations that might coat the actual content of our worldview.

It’s often a space of great intention and care: parents, wanting the best, give all they’re able from their understanding of life. Society, too, has vested interests in the parts coming generations will play in its future. But then, other things also get lodged into the receptacle of our minds: lies, partial-truths or careless remarks cast our way that might stick in the psyche. Damage can be done, despite the best intentions (Notes Two).

Life can then become a battle to let go of what doesn’t serve you or might’ve been mistaken from the outset. Those patterns of thinking, reacting, relating that come to define us by shaping all our interactions. Impressions made that might take years to bring to awareness as we seek the psychological certainty from which to discard them.

Youth – and, life itself – can be a place of healing or wounding. We might meet nurturing, balanced, realistic messages that affirm who we truly feel ourselves to be, or find ourselves in a place where everything jars, nothing fits and you’re left with a jumbled mess you could spend a lifetime reworking. Ways life impacts people and ways they, in turn, respond are endlessly fascinating and inspiring.

Because, if the experiences of youth are foundations we build our walls upon then things not being quite right, metaphorically, creates problems we’ll be living with, suffering through, working around, unpicking and rebuilding for years.

What if nothing’s without consequence? If it’s all going to reverberate back around us as people’s ways of being and relating, their sense of peace and agency in life, the feelings they harbour toward others and society itself. Foundational experiences becoming these undercurrents guiding our encounters, the recognition or rejection we all feel, and the countless impacts we’re having (Notes Three).

All this becomes the fabric of our inner lives and outer realities: the views people have of themselves, their value within society, what they have to contribute or overcome. Learning who we are, understanding society, relating to it, managing inwardly, and walking a steady enough path to our goals is perhaps a description of life itself? An integration of self within community.

People being left with mixed messages or contradictory, unhelpful ideas about society and their place within it is a problem both for them and the world around them: social interactions, policing, healthcare, every area of life would presumably be strained. Finding ways to affirm human worth and agency seems a beautiful, complicated challenge.

Notes and References:

Note 1: What we know to pass on
Note 1: The social metaphor of education
Note 1: Meaning within it all
Note 2: Living as an open wound
Note 2: The dignity & power of a human life
Note 2: We’re all vulnerable
Note 3: What if it all means something?
Note 3: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 3: In the deep end…

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