As we look within our Caribbean region there is much happening in the lives of our children and youth. Mostly what we see and hear appears to be only negative. We could discuss at length the many reasons it seems as though the youth of our islands appear to be a lost generation as some have suggested.
I do not subscribe to this view but what I have come to realise from speaking to young people is that many of them are unsure about what the future holds and this brings fear and anxiety. In fact, what we the adults have failed to do is to prepare them for LIFE and all that it can bring. I especially came to this conclusion after a youth night at church and recognised that our teens and young adults are beginning a journey of which they are absolutely clueless and are expected to master. They are trying to juggle all of the matters that arise with getting older, balancing relationships with adults and friends, navigating their emotions along with a host of other challenges which arise for them.
Many of the youth related issues we see rearing their heads today are as a result of the failure of a majority of those in authority, whether they are parents, adults, teachers, police, politicians, clergymen etc, setting good examples and taking the time to correctly guide and mentor young people. It is one thing to shout orders, the famous ‘do as I say’ but it is another to show the right precepts, ‘do as I do’.
As I have recently entered my 30s, I have learned a thing or two on my journey of life which I would like to share with you. These are a few of the things I wish someone had told me so that I could have avoided all the mistakes I made and I hope this will be a source of encouragement to someone.
1. Find out who you are – One of the greatest questions we all have in life is ‘Who am I’? I realised that if I had sought the answers to this question, I could have avoided trying to fit it in and trying to act like the popular kids hoping their awesomeness would rub off on me. I would have instead been content with being who I was. The problem was I had no clue about myself. If I did, I wouldn’t have followed the crowd but been a leader. Successful people are self aware. They know what drives them, what they like and love themselves for it. Get a pen and paper and write down all of your qualities, your likes and dislikes, your talents and gifts, what you’re good at. This will help you on the path to discovery.
2. Boost your confidence – Learn to love who you are, the way you look, the way you think. Don’t let other people define you and don’t compare yourself to others. The people in magazines do NOT look that way in real life. The people flaunting in music videos aren’t always as happy as you think. Don’t try to be them. Never forget that inward beauty (character) is the most important part of who you are. If you have to look in the mirror and speak affirming words to yourself daily, then do it. It may seem silly but life and death are in the power of the tongue so speak life to yourself. I had to do this and trust me when I tell you, IT WORKS!
3. What do you want to achieve? – What are your goals in life? What are the things that matter to you? What are your priorities? What do you want to achieve? What are you passionate about? Write these down as well and make a list of how you will go about achieving them.
4. Get that education – You knew this was coming right but it is truly, so important. Education helps to open the gateway to figuring out what you love and want to do with your life. I know a three or four year degree seems long and yes, it is hard work but see it as an investment in your future. You can do it and you get the satisfaction of completion and getting that degree.
5. Be patient – I was obsessed with getting older. When you’re 12, you can’t wait to be 16. At 16, you can’t wait to be 18. At 18, you can’t wait to be 21. Slow down! Enjoy growing up because it goes by all too quickly and then you have to be an adult and pay bills.
These are but a few of the lessons I learned and I hope they are useful to you. You can do it and remember to enjoy every moment of your life adventure
Deswyn Haynes is a regionalist with special interest in international relations and issues of the environment. She holds a B.Sc. in Political Science from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill and is currently pursuing a M.Sc. in Integration Studies. When she isn’t traveling across the Caribbean, she spends most of her time involved in church activities and enjoying island life in Barbados.