Our Highlands Youth Worker, Nikki Nathan Darling looks back on 2020 in this heart-warming blog piece.
2020 was a year which promised so much: a new decade, the ROARING TWENTIES again(!)… yet spectacularly, stupendously, and gut-wrenchingly failed to deliver. Or did it?
See, I have titled this blog piece Armagaydon as a play on the word Armageddon: that apocalyptic, ominous clarion cry of doom, despair and of… zombies! Zombies? What do you mean zombies? Well, I cannot be alone in my fear that my bum-rooted-on-seat-ness, glazed-eyes-at-computer-screen-ness, no-makeup-in-months-ness and Godawful hair-like-I’m-dating-Edward-Scissorhands-ness has morphed me into something of a zombie-looking creature over the past few months.
I am reminded of my first residential, not long after I joined LGBTYS, when I answered the door to a young person early one morning and he screamed – nay, shrieked - in horror at my scary wee face devoid of make up for the first time in all the months he’d known me. “That’s scary, don’t do it again” this young lad advised, to which we both collapsed in laughter and I knew then that I had absolutely found the right path for me. This ability to laugh at ourselves is an element that’s key to successful youth work and it’s funny that this joke (and blood curdling scream at 7am) are amongst my fondest memories of working here.
Although I’m not joking about looking like the living dead, I am jesting about it being a genuine reason for ominous doom this year. The real concern needs no introduction nor explanation. Covid-19, unlike its 18 elder siblings, has robbed us all of time with our loved ones, new experiences, and life moments that we will never recover. In the lovely LGBTYS family, that also means the face-to-face time with young people, colleagues, volunteers and the organisations we collaborate with. It’s a real sadness and one that I won’t try to gloss over nor minimise. I struggle… and I am 34 years old, working another job that means I get to see people every day, and I’m living in a town with less life in it than Donald Trump’s barnet. Oh, how tough this year must have been for those of you who are young, who have vibrant social lives, who have dreams to chase down and life to grab by the scruff of the neck. I am in awe of how you’ve all got through this. You inspire me and I know you inspire my colleagues too. You are wonderful!
There’s plenty that has been truly rubbish this year. The Zoom meetings like séances (“Nate are you there? Make a sound if you can hear us. We can’t see you, is there anyone with you Nate? Nate? Oh… you’re sitting on your bed again I see”), the inability to wear masks with glasses without needing a lighthouse to guide you through the specs-fog, the great toilet roll war of 2020, and the fact we haven’t shared a physical space with each other for months now. The thing is: in amongst all of that has been some truly wonderful moments, experiences, conversations, and interactions.
Whilst the world around us screeched to a halt, LGBTYS ensured that life would continue in a new normality for the benefit of our young folk. We were ahead of the curve in setting out plans to engage with and support our young people digitally. We realised that digital youth work is like outreach youth work. To make it work, you need to go to where the young people are and not sit and wait for them to come to us. I had never even heard of Discord before we moved onto the platform, but the young folk delighted in telling me that it’s much cooler as “Facebook is for old people”. Yeah, thanks for that!
In the Highlands, our Pillar group have recorded a podcast with an inspirational Tayside young person and submitted it as part of Youthlink’s amazing Heids Together project around mental health. They set out to make a podcast that shared supportive, affirming and powerfully uplifting message with any young LGBTQI person who happens to stumble upon it. To say that I am proud of this remarkable group of individuals does not even come close. My heart is bursting with pride. This year also saw the wider Central and North teams come together to host amazing Halloween and Christmas parties online. I have so loved the experience of working with a wider range of young people and getting to know some of my colleagues so much better. The end of the year has also afforded me the privilege of helping out at the Youth Reference Group digital residential. Talk about inspirational young people! The future is in safe hands.
It can be so hard to see it right now, but make no mistake, that future will come. The wheels are in motion, and to any young person who has read this far without dozing off, let me say: you… yes YOU… are an integral part of that future. We are all stronger for the things that we have endured this year. You will use the skills you’ve learnt, your resilience, your humour, your empathy and strength to fight on and live your life to the fullest. I have every faith in you. Yeah, 2020 can get in the bin, but 2021 is now coming at us and it will do so with all the promise of a new dawn.
Don’t like mornings? Take it from me, blackout blinds are a vampire’s best friend. And yes, I know that I have now equated myself to a vampire, a zombie and a spooky old séance ghost in the space of one blog piece but so what? I have a flair for the dramatic!
Happy New Year, beautiful people. Love and light to you all. Let 2021 commence!
By Nikki Nathan Darling – Youth & Community Development Officer in the Highlands