This past Saturday, I visited a youth program run by Teatro ChUSMA in Los Angeles. It was a group of young teenagers who are all connected to arthritis or cancer in some way – whether they are fighting the disease themselves or a relative of theirs is. They have spent the past 10 Saturdays together, playing theatre games and practicing creativity, learning how to make their voices heard and how to make the best use of their bodies for expression.
And yet, there were still so many of them who could not perform in an improv game without giggling – if they got up the courage to join in, in the first place. It reminded me of how self-conscious we all are at that stage of life, how fragile our egos, and how concerned we are with every step we take, for fear that someone will see us trip. We, in our efforts to appear “cool,” walk through life with our fists up, prepared to battle off any potential offenders, or at the very least to provide a shield to protect ourselves.
In doing so, how many opportunities for discovery and wonder do we prevent ourselves from seeing? Spoken word poet Sarah Kay addresses this topic beautifully (among many others) in this TED talk I came across yesterday, which I highly recommend that you watch. It is so important that we help our young people take their guards down, at least a little, both so they can see the beautiful things in this world but also so that they can develop healthy modes of expression. Many of us eventually grow out of this guarded, fists-up way of navigating the world, but I have met too many – particularly young, urban men – who never learn other ways of seeing things and remain unable to express themselves truly.