Exciting news: at our last meeting, each of the YALA Peace stars designed her own blog.
They will soon start posting ideas, photos, artwork, and whatever else they want to share! When they feel ready, I will share their individual blogs here.
Most of these kids are familiar with online gaming, internet surfing, and social networking sites. On facebook they can post links, pictures, and notes to share their thoughts. However, there the girls have a persona to maintain, peers to appease, and families to please. They enjoy the online culture they share with their friends, but it does not encourage their individual expression free from judgement, obligations, or expectations.
These YALA blogs will be a new way to use their imaginative powers, to honor their unique thoughts and styles. If they don't want to share the blog links, they don't have to. They can express themselves freely without anyone watching until they want to share.
They already have a small, ready-made accepting audience in the other YALA Peace girls. We are becoming a close community of creative individuals. They know that what they write on their YALA blogs will be valued by us.
It is a thrilling, modern public-speaking task, to bravely publish your thoughts online for anyone to access! These girls have a lot to say, but not always the words or even the English to say it in. They will try, but there is a shyness to overcome.
When we discussed the idea of designing individual blogs, everyone was shouting out their ideas and their favorite colors to use. As we started setting up blog usernames and passwords, they started getting nervous: "What will I write?", they asked me suddenly. "Probably I will forget how to do this later," I heard someone say to herself.
So then I thought - ok, maybe this isn't a good idea, maybe they're not really interested. But then one of the girls, Mirage, looked at me and said. "What if I can't sign in? Maybe it won't work if you're not here." And then it was so clear - she wanted to do it. They all wanted to do it.
Maybe we have all been taught not to get too excited about new experiences. We aren't sure what will happen, so we try not to get our hopes up. We think we are preparing ourselves, but we are actually numbing ourselves to those magnificent possibilities that breeze in through open windows.
When we try something new, when we put ourselves out there, it can feel better to announce to everyone before they get any funny ideas that we know this probably won't work. That we have nothing to say, so that when we say it, nobody is waiting eagerly to judge us. When some of the girls said they weren't sure what to do with their blogs, I had to hear beyond to what their beautiful 13-year-old eyes were saying: those eyes were utterly betraying their natural curiosity, adventurous spirits, and spontaneous expression...
I hope we will all overcome those moments of false limitations the same way these girls are already bravely doing. It's not that our insecurities are false - they really did feel anxious that they might have nothing to write. But they do have things to write. I want to mark this in them deeply so that one day, when someone says, "But what would you write?", they will laugh and reply, "What do you mean? Anything I want!"