Minne-snow-ta TLT conference! The Minnesota teen conference was so refreshing. Prior to Minnesota, It had been a month since I did a teen conference, and I really missed having the opportunity to connect with youth. Minnesota reinforced why I missed it so much. Being “in it” with the youth, seeing their hearts and hearing their stories is such a gift and I’m humbled by the fact that that they are willing to share that with me. It is amazing to watch people have “lightbulb moments”, and my favorite part about my job is that I get to help young people discover how beautiful their story is. I was not always good about claiming my past- there have been plenty of times I denied it, wished it had been different, or just cried for what it wasn’t. It moves me to think how that has come full circle for me, in that now my past is what drives me, and is one of the things I am most proud of. I spent some one-on-one time with a handful of youth who were so brave I can’t do them justice in a blog. Their stories resonated with my heart, so much so I came close to tears. I will talk a little bit about them, because these are the experiences that make conferences so powerful to me.
I spoke with a girl who was acting as a caretaker for her family, and at times that had impeded upon her being able to take good care of herself. She hadn’t been nurtured the way she deserved, but despite that past pain, she allowed herself to be vulnerable with me. She was so open, and I was honored that she trusted me with her story. She made my eyes fill with tears- the connection I felt with her is indescribable. I just wanted to take her home with me, and say, “Here, I’ll protect you. Come with me and feel safe enough to blossom, because you don’t deserve anything less than love.” But I couldn’t, and honestly I don’t think I had to, because she has figured out how to love herself the way nobody else had. I could see she is going to reach her potential no matter what. I felt so much hope for that girl, because there was a time in my life where I was just like her.
I can’t help but be touched by stories so interchangeable with my own, because I know the beauty that can come out of a mess. I spoke with a girl who had this energy that drew you in, an optimistic girl with an old soul who wanted to connect to her roots, despite having grown up without them. She was so modest and eloquent in the way she spoke to me, not wanting sympathy, but instead craving change for others. She loved a lot of the same things I love- creativity, giving back, and I loved watching her because you could constantly see the wheels turning in her mind. Every piece of information, every story I shared, I knew it was going to stick with her, and I loved that I could be a little piece of her story, because I know her life is going to be one of huge impact.
I spoke to another young lady who was ridiculously perceptive of her story; I saw at least nine deep revelations from her in the span of just one hour. When she spoke to the group, she spoke with such conviction that they hung on her every word. Her passion was contagious, not only for the youth, but for the VIP panel and myself as well. You could tell she “got it”- she saw the bigger picture and made it clear to others, too. I can’t wait to see what she does with her voice in the future.
So obviously more happened at the TLT conference than me just talking to three youth, but honestly those were the kind of conversations that made this more than just a conference for me.
Thank you, youth of Minnesota for being so resilient and real. You inspire me.