Seriously ill young people need a safe place to practice stepping up to the mic – so they can face life with a forward focus despite their adverse circumstances. As young people, their main job is to figure themselves out – to aspire towards their possibilities – and to do this successfully, they need to be the ones informing their experience. Challenge is, chronic illness is hogging the microphone in their lives, turning the volume way up as it fills their playlist with isolation, stigma and disempowerment.
When your ears are crowded by a narrative authored by the negative impacts of cancer, HIV or rare genetic disorder, listening becomes overwhelming. It taxes your energy, your motivation and your purpose. Without these inner resources you can lose perspective and find it difficult to connect to yourself or others. Isolation moves in. Now, instead of informing your experience, you are removed from experiences. The more remote you become, the more your social and mental health suffer, and then these essential supports turn on you, seeing you only through the lens of illness. Stigma shows up. That’s 2 strikes – 1 more, and you’re out. Now add that when living with chronic disease, your first focus is managing disruptions that occur daily. Not your family or friends, your career or schooling. Strike 3 – Disempowerment. You’re out – of you. This is why we all need to learn mic skills – my term for advocacy.
In Next Step’s Song Studio, young people and I work with each other to write their original song, learning together how to think critically and creatively about their narrative. We create space on the blank page for all their thoughts and feelings, making sure we find their words and figure out their definitions. As their lyrics, rhythms, harmonies and melodies, start to take shape, it’s important that the young people have the chance to hear themselves – so they can ensure their meaning.
Listening back to the recordings we make during songwriting allows them that significant moment of safeguarding their truth. They get to use their voice to say “yes,” “no,” “so yes,” and “uh…SO NO,” regarding each element of their song. They make all the choices concerning their message and meaning.
As they write and record their song, they fill their ears with their own influence. The song production process gives them control over making changes to their narrative, which helps them develop their confidence in living their story. By listening in, they become the resource they need to elevate themselves towards relationships, life experiences and community connections that will help them achieve their goals. Ownership is in play.
Thank you for reading!
LISTEN to original songs written and performed by Next Step participants in Song Studio.
WATCH Kimberly talk more about the Song Studio process.
Contact Quita, Next Step’s Outreach Coordinator, to get involved in Song Studio: firstname.lastname@example.org/617.864.2921.