Clear in the opening keynotes at the Gwich’in Tribal Council’s YOUth Matter conference this week in Inuvik was the acknowledgement of flawed pasts.
GTC vice-president Jordan Peterson, Inuvialuit Communications Society manager Dez Loreen and Those Kugs podcaster Terrance Allen all began their presentations talking about their struggles with alcohol and finding an identity they could be proud of.
Allen and Loreen discussed the importance of being grateful for the good things happening in life and not focusing on the bad.
It is natural to get into your own head without realizing everyone else is in theirs.
Everyone has experience being hyper-concerned with blemishes or embarrassments that friends, family and significant others don’t even seem able to see.
What absolutely distresses one person in the mirror all morning doesn’t even register to the people they meet throughout the day, who themselves are likely far more concerned about whatever they have going on in their lives.
Youth are in a particularly fragile time. Many don’t yet have a sense of identity and they compare themselves closely with their peers, not wanting to be different from the crowd.
Few seem to get through their late teens and early 20s without fairly severe anxiety issues, challenges with depression, or struggling with personal pride and direction.
Perhaps not entirely, but to some degree the perfect lives people portray themselves living on social media can enhance this anxiety among young people, who see only the smiling pictures of their peers and not the moments of self-doubt between them.
The speakers and GTC president Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan mentioned the importance of being grateful to be alive.
That can be hard to get through to young people, but every second of life is truly a gift, and it can be snatched from us at any moment.
At the base of it, you’re either dead or alive. If you’re dead, there’s nothing to think about anyway. If you’re alive, might as well keep riding your one shot on the roller-coaster of life.
There’s always room to recover and grow and work toward a better tomorrow so long as your heart is still beating.
It was refreshing to hear how blunt the speakers were at the youth conference this week. In any event like this, there can be the inclination to give more of a stock standard speech, rattling off the qualities of successful people and how to be leaders and whatnot.
But the speakers presented themselves as flawed people, and even as people who may have reached a good place now but are still in need of working on themselves as much as ever.
That can only be healthy for youth to hear as they struggle reconciling their image of themselves with their lofty expectations and dreams.