Welcome to the OTR Bristol – on mental health, life, choices and awareness

The timing of this post is important to me: I have started my work as a Community Champion for OTR Bristol (Off The Record – the Bristol-based organisation and social movement supporting, promoting and defending the mental health, rights and social position of young people). I am still working in social media. I am still studying and volunteering in counselling. I am still running my own projects (BIGOS UK and Cyber-Wellness Podcast). I am still posting and actually, after a long time of exploration and learning, I am coming back to sharing through this blog too. I am still a mum, a wife, a dog owner, a friend. I have time for all of this and each and every one of those areas of life makes me really happy and fulfilled.

This new job, however, marks a very important moment in my life. It is a culmination of an exploration journey I was on for quite a while and it almost feels like a result and summary of everything I did so far in my adult life. I cannot even explain how it feels – it’s still too overwhelming. All I can say is that I feel it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. It is also a very natural, obvious next step of my journey and all the choices I have made in my life.

Aware choices are extremely important and I think that’s what this post is all about. It is really well timed for me for two reasons.

On one hand, it is the day before the European GDPR law becomes mandatory and so there is a lot of discussion about how companies, organisations and individuals are to become more aware of how they handle our data. Even though some of us know that this conversation is really delayed and some of its aspects are still really damaging (especially the real impact of the law on young people’s empowerment and voices around tech), I believe it is important to have the conversation around aware, informed decision-making process when it comes to how people use the social web – both as users, as well as service providers. It’s about time we spoke about it.

On the other hand, it is the anniversary of my most favourite speech which pretty much sums up my attitude towards life – “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. You can listen to the full speech in the link behind its title or watch the shortened, really good visual interpretation of it here, embedded below.

This speech always moves me. It reminds me of my father and the way he raised me into this world: as an aware, emotional and critical thinker. My dad explained to me the importance of awareness, questioning, making time to think but also staying kind to myself and to other people. He showed me ways to restore my energy by learning and feeding my curiosity. He explained to me the power of acceptance so I knew from early on that if I do so: if I accept my limitations and push myself one more step on my journey I will create the most empowering habit of them all: the habit of hopefulness. David Foster Wallace was really relevant at the time of his speech and remains even so today.

We are seemingly facing a crisis in mental health, in technology, in politics, but actually from what I can tell we are really suffering from disconnection and in our isolated self from helplessness. But life and our outlook on it really does not have to be this way. Each and every one of us has a potential to think differently about what we have and what we are deprived off, for any reason. We all have the power of thinking, of awareness, of questioning and that of asking for help.

Which leads me to the main reason why I am writing this post. This week I have joined an organisation and a social movement of people who get this. I’ve met people (young and older) who really care for each other and commit to words, but also actions. My friends tell me that I am perfect for this job, but I think it’s the other way around: this job, these people are the place I belong to. At OTR Bristol people understand that our mental health is not a set of disorders but the water – the invisible, but the crucial power behind how we all function and hopefully flourish too. OTR Bristol is a place of kindness, openness, growth and hope. It’s not a place for naivety, nor ignorance – it actually requires a lot of critical thinking, commitment and self-growth. It helps ideas, but more importantly, it helps people thrive. In the first three days of my work there I have learned a lot about people and about myself. My attitudes, my ideas, my input were accepted and multiplied. And I have not even started the actual hard work just yet. I know that this is the perfect time for this step in my life – thanks to all the mentors in my life and thanks to my own aware choices. I know that the results of my work will benefit many young people and ripple out to many more out there. I really hope that I can do my best to turn those ripples into waves. I really hope that I will be able to create currents that will help those stuck in the void of helplessness see the water and its benefits. We are all capable of this, it’s just that some of us might need a little help to make it work. That’s why we need to work towards togetherness and connection, and we really need to look out for each other. The unique places like the OTR Bristol are already doing it and so this is my little contribution too. I hope I will do it well.

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