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Young Adult Liberation for Everyone

On the drive home from the Young Adult Leaders’ Conference last August, Kara Nye, Amy Calandrella, and I had a long conversation about how awesome young adult liberation is and how sad it is that some people in RC never have access to it because they joined RC after turning thirty-one. Then we had this wacky (“crazy”) idea that we should lead a “Young Adult Liberation for Everyone” gather-in for our Region. And we did! It was quite amazing.

The three of us have often talked about how RCers too often know only the liberation theory of their own constituencies. The theory one gets at allies’ gatherings is different from what the members of a constituency get at their constituency gatherings, even though the theory the constituency group gets could be really useful for its allies as well. (For example, the theory on identity and early sexual memories given at LGBTQ workshops could be super-useful for heterosexual-identified people.) We’ve also noted that older adults who did RC young-adult work when they were younger often have more slack in many areas. As one of us put it, “You can spot them from a mile away.” We decided that we wanted to bring young adult liberation to the older adults in our Region.

PLANNING THE GATHER-IN

We had a three-way session after the workshop and brainstormed a giant list of “all the things we’d like to tell our Region about young adult liberation.” We also created a hilarious skit about young adult liberation as an “advertisement” for the gather-in and performed it at our Regional workshop.

Amy, the official organizer of the gather-in, made an awesome flyer with the following text (excerpted):

“Young adult liberation challenges you to never give up on your dreams and to stay close, trust your mind, and refuse both assimilation and exploitation. Does that sound good? Young adult liberation is for you. This is not a gathering for allies to young adults, though that will happen. This is young adult liberation for everyone. You did brave, great things as a young adult, and you were also discouraged, hurt, and isolated. The hurts of young adult years discourage creativity, risk-taking, and the challenging of oppression. You are to blame for none of this. We wish we had known you then, and we will cheer you on today as you continue to build a life that is fun, connected, and full of integrity.”

WHAT WE DID AT THE GATHER-IN

The Big Day arrived! About thirty people crowded into a room to be led by us. I was the official leader and started by saying how scared I was. I also said, “I’ve led a lot, but so far I’ve mostly led young adults. Most of you have never seen me lead and probably don’t know how smart I am. And I want you to know. I want you to have access to my mind, and I want to know your minds too.”

In the introductions, everyone told about someone who had been important to them while they were young adults. People shared beautiful things, and it was sweet to think of all these older adults being young adults.

Then I gave an introduction to young adults’ oppression. I said how we all experience oppression as young people with the promise that someday it will end. Then it ends, but everything is still terrible! Damn. As young adults we are set up to feel hopeful and excited, but we get squashed by capitalism, a false notion of scarcity, and the reality of the collapsing society. We’re also set up to be agents of young people’s oppression. I asked those of us who are young adults to raise our hands if our job included oppressing young people, and about seven of us did.

Then we talked about young adults’ liberation. Luckily we don’t have to do it alone! We get to have each other and change the world together. The notion of having to “figure it all out” by the time we’re thirty is nonsense.

I asked the older adults what “adult” things they still didn’t know how to do. That led to some good confessions about things like balancing a checkbook, having a career that goes on a path, keeping houseplants alive, planning out meals. Kara talked about how there’s a little more space for young adults to not know what they’re doing. As an older adult, if your life still looks like a “young adult” life (having roommates, not having much money, being single, switching jobs, and so on), the oppressive society targets you really heavily. It’s class oppression and “mental health” oppression, but it’s also “young adults’ oppression, part two.”

After a mini-session we talked about a few “institutions” of young adult oppression: work, relationships, and drugs and alcohol. I said that I wanted people to work on them with the freedom they might have if they were young adults—to pretend they were having a young adult session in which they had more room to admit they might not know what they were doing and in which they might make a decision that would totally alter the course of their life.

We young adults spend a lot of our sessions figuring out our work lives—how to be big and powerful and do work that’s for us while also paying our bills. Older adults are less likely to have these sessions! That’s partly because some oppression has lessened and partly because they’ve gotten stuck and feel hopeless about things in their work lives ever being different. I did a demonstration with a woman of the global majority who’s worked in the social services most of her life and encouraged her to quit her job for the five minutes of the demonstration. She laughed and laughed.

We had fun asking how many people regularly worked on their long-term relationships. (Not many did.) Amy shared that when she was in her first class with older adults, she was just getting into a new relationship and wanted to work on it all the time because all of her early distress was coming up in the relationship. She was totally confused about why the older adults in the class never worked on their partners.

All three of us had made commitments to not consume drugs or alcohol. We each spoke about the work that had gone into making these commitments. I told my story of watching the effects of alcohol on people I love and having a few experiences with it myself that were scary and messy. It was terrifying to tell a group of older adults about my experiences with alcohol, and I shook while I spoke.

Kara, who is Native, talked about needing a reason to give up alcohol aside from “RC is making me” and finding it by discharging on internalized genocide and the people the alcohol industry has targeted for destruction.

I said that young adults are heavily targeted by drugs and alcohol, that this has become extremely obvious to me since stopping drinking, and that we need to make space for people to work honestly on where they struggle here.

Next we spoke about the value of getting to counsel and talk with people of one’s own age group. We split into groups based on ages, and then we came back for appreciations and a closing.

PEOPLE'S HIGHLIGHTS

People shared such sweet highlights. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Something about my chronic distress really clicked for me last night. Something big shifted in my brain.
  • The group last night was amazing. I can’t stop thinking about it.
  • You made so much room for and were so gentle with your oppressors. That’s really rare.
  • I haven’t been to a three-hour gather-in before that’s felt so exciting and like I didn’t want it to end.
  • The three of you sitting on that couch looked like a boat of brilliance.
  • For the first time, I felt like a part of this Region and not like an outsider.
  • I hadn’t ever heard so clearly how young people’s and young adults’ oppression is connected or how the illusion of scarcity is used to scare us into accepting limitations and oppressor roles. It was also great to hear you all speak so personally and forthrightly about alcohol and drugs.

So it was a great success. We got to remind our Region (and ourselves) that turning thirty-one does not mean giving up on our dreams, our people, or our ability to get help with hard things.

Love to you all,

Emma Roderick

Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

(Present Time 184, July 2016)


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00