Words by Gemma, 26 QLD
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
We’ve all been presented with an opportunity at some
It may have taken me 26 years, but I think I’ve finally learnt there’s a big difference between seizing the opportunity and letting it pass you by. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities through my work over the past few years, but looking back – I’ve only ever taken them with one hand. Naturally, I’m an introvert – I like to watch from the sidelines, only speak when spoken to, and have always thought that to do great you have to be this overly extroverted, fearless person.
The YMCA National Youth Retreat was an opportunity to bring young people from across Australia & New Zealand together to network, educate, motivate & fuel a movement to inspire young people. When being offered the opportunity, I remember jokingly saying to my Manager, ‘you just love pushing me out of my comfort zone don’t you?’, while on the inside my heart was racing. I’m the kind of person that would prefer to stay inside my comfort bubble, enjoy my day-to-day routine, working with people I know and being able to go home at the end of the day to my partner and two dogs. I never would have thought that two weeks later, former Olympic soccer player & Australian Matilda, Tal Karp, would be speaking to our group and would give me a lesson that has stuck with me – learn to get comfortable with uncomfortable.
Something told me from day one that this experience would be different, even before we were lucky enough to hear from Tal. You see, there’s something special about being in a room full of young people with a united passion, even when that passion stems from different backgrounds and experiences. The YMCA believes in the power of inspired young people, and the passion to carry that movement forward comes from a colourful array of young people from across the country, including our kiwi friends from across the ditch. I met incredible young people including; child care coordinators working with our future young people, youth workers helping young people with no place else to go, swimming coordinators and gymnastics coaches teaching young people life skills, supervisors and managers leading and mentoring young people in paid and volunteer roles each day, and self-proclaimed ‘glorified janitors’ who keep our recreation centres in operation are just a few of the inspiring young people I got to share this experience with.
It’s not every day you meet the National CEO of the organisation you work for, let alone have the opportunity to chat with her over a bowl of camp cereal before she makes a two-hour trip back to the city for her next board meeting. Her genuine interest in our stories from ground level was enough to open our eyes to the belief she has in each and every young person within the YMCA to inspire those around them.
To be in a position to meet and network with those that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to is an uncomfortable opportunity in itself – but one that had to be taken. When Tal Karp (former Olympian) said uncomfortable I know she didn’t mean jump out of a plane or run with the bulls in Spain, but to embrace opportunities and dare to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.
The uncomfortable feeling will never stop, but fear kills more dreams than failure ever will – there is nothing to lose, get comfortable with uncomfortable and not only inspire yourself, but those around you.