This was the astonishing question that motivational speaker, Paul Robinson, asked us near the end of our Values Clarification Workshop. When he asked it, there was a collective gasp and an electrifying resonance reverberated throughout the room. We couldn't write his words down fast enough. This question cracked open our worlds.
It also mirrored a piece of advice that we were given in a later session on Career Development with Field Experts. When discussing resumes and how to set oneself apart, we were told that instead of listing our education and work experience, we should start listing what happened in the world because we were there.
One of my proudest work experiences was a freelance directing gig I did in April of 2004. I was hired by Voices Against Violence, an organization at the University of Texas at Austin ’s Counseling & Mental Health Center, to direct a Mock Trial on acquaintance rape. I worked with three young students: one woman and two men. We rehearsed for 6 weeks. Sometimes I worked with them one on one and other times in two's or as a group. We worked to establish their relationships: three best friends, one of the men had become interested in the woman and she in him. We also built the scenario of the acquaintance rape: a night of drinking, so no one could say exactly what or how things happened. Our work culminated in a mock trial, which was presided over by an actual judge. The plaintiff (the young woman) and the defendant (one of the young men) had actual attorneys. The audience of about 100 served as the jury. It was an intimate, challenging, scary and life transforming experience for all of us.
When I think about that work, it reminds me of why I value theatre as a tool for social change. I haven't done this type of theatre in a long time, but I want to get back to it. I honestly didn't know how much I missed it, until being put to task on the value and purpose of my life.
At the end of the Values Clarification Workshop, I looked around the room at the other Young Leaders of Color. These once beautiful, curious strangers were now allies, heroes, champions and friends. They were all glowing and appeared to be 10 feet tall.
Going on three weeks later, I am still feeling the impact of the this workshop (and the many sessions, discussions, panels, and soirees, including dancing past sweat and exhaustion). This whole experience woke me up to myself! My soul was shaken, my mind blown, my world spun on its axis and my molecules shifted. I felt whole, energized and renewed.
It makes me think of the many ways one can be awoken ... A new love. A new friend. An authentic moment on stage. A line of poetry. An act of human kindness. The courage of someone standing up for themselves in a room full of dissenters. Unexpected laughter. Children at play. The perseverance of someone overcoming great challenges against all odds. The loss of a loved one. A kind touch. A kiss. The glance of a stranger that holds a promise of something new, exciting and different. The realization that something you did or created spoke to someone else.
Really, truly, to be awoken to yourself is a remarkable and beautiful thing. May you all be granted this wondrous gift.