My name is April, I’m 16 and currently in school. At the beginning of 2020, I took part in a camp run by Burn Bright.
Going into the new year I knew some things in my life had to change. Before this camp, I was someone who prioritised just about anything over myself and what I knew was going to be good for me. I struggled a lot with self-sabotage and understanding why I would constantly set myself back in life.
I was quite a popular, outgoing and confident girl with lots of friends who I loved to go out with, I prioritised partying with my girls over most things, often overlooking my family and taking “fun” too far. I had developed a reputation as someone who didn’t behave and had a serious attitude, I was very shut off and unwelcoming to most people outside of my group. I had a complete lack of care for anything and anyone including myself.
I had known for a while that my behaviour needed to improve. I wasn’t standing by my core values and beliefs which as a result had seriously strained my relationship with my family. I wanted to be myself again and prove not only to myself but to others that I was capable of pursuing my goals and turning my life around, but I didn’t feel like I knew where to start.
One of the teachers at my school was the first to introduce me to this camp and I, being the incredibly stubborn person I am, wasn’t overly excited about the thought of spending four days of the summer holidays back at school. I was reluctant but one of the Burn Bright crew said I had to buy them lunch if I didn’t sign up, that was enough for me to finally just do it.
I knew this camp wasn’t something I would be expected to participate in. Honestly, I even shocked myself by signing up. Although I may have been pushed into it unwillingly at the beginning, I can confidently say that although I am not sure what happened to me, it has changed my life for the better. It was the push I needed to step into a new chapter of my life.
When people ask me what singular experience happened at camp that was so influential to me, I struggle to find the words to explain because I am not too sure myself.
But if I could summarise all that I learnt in 2020 that had such an effect on my life these would be the four points:
- To open up and allow myself to be vulnerable
- You are not defined by nor need to fit into any stereotypes or reputation
- Own my actions
- Prioritise my happiness and future
These four things have impacted all aspects of my life, no one single factor was the reason for my success so far this year, everything I learned had a positive knock-on effect, on not only my behaviour but my outlook and thought processes.
I didn’t like my reputation of the typical “party girl” that I was thought to be. I had reached a point where I did not want to be limited by my past wrongdoings, I have made mistakes in my past but there is far more to me than just what I have done wrong. The first step to challenge this reputation was simply taking part in camp and showing up on the first day. This camp was the first time I had allowed myself to be vulnerable. Opening up to my group, I was hit with the realization that I had been missing out on beautiful friendships with so many people because I hadn’t been vulnerable and therefore wasn’t an easy person to approach. It was a pivotal moment in my life when the Burn Bright team and my group accepted that I had made mistakes but they, to my surprise, were still willing to get to know me.
It made me realise that for things to change at school, I had to open myself up to more people and be vulnerable so my teachers and peers could see that there was more to me than just the “party girl” I was perceived to be. Whilst I still do love having fun with my friends, I have been determined to make sure I don’t let history repeat itself.
I have to thank my gorgeous group for not only laughing at my jokes but for creating a safe environment that allowed me to be so open. Because of their warmth and acceptance, I gained the confidence to continue to own my actions and be vulnerable beyond camp. This vulnerability that I now possessed allowed me to be who I am, I didn’t feel like I had to fit my previous persona and I no longer felt limited or judged by my defiant behaviour in the past.
School, in particular, has changed dramatically for me, my effort and as a result, my grades have improved, and I have made so many new friendships I never would’ve thought possible. For someone who hated school so much that I even tried to move in Year 10, to suddenly be thriving was something I don’t think anyone expected.
I prioritised myself and my future for the first time and now I can say I am proud of myself for the progress I have made already this year. My relationships with everyone; family, friends, teachers and most importantly myself have finally reflected the type of person I am. Camp solidified my values, beliefs and the type of woman I want to and am growing up to be and reignited my passion for connecting with people and doing what I love. The environment allowed me to express the person I always have been deep down in all areas of my life. I am eternally grateful to Burn Bright and my school for the experiences I had and the way it impacted my life.
I am truly happy with where I am now.