Tuesday, 10 February 2015

YITS: Reflections 10 years on

It seems a little early... but it's time for some reflection of Year in the Son seeing as it's been ten years since I started the course, and ten years of having some of the best friend ever.

I have done a few YITS reflection posts, but I haven't reread any because that will sway my current thoughts. Who know, I might do another one of these in 20 years. Then again, maybe not..

Year in the Son was a year long course ran by Tabor Adelaide as a gear year style program. The students in the course learnt life skills, some basic theology, some performance skills and a whole bunch of useless ice breaker games. The thing that I loved most about YITS was community. The awesome thing about moving to Adelaide and doing a program like this meant that I would start my time off in town with some soon-to-be friends and a pretty decent social calendar. The course was only three days a week, but Thursday sessions were extra long because they included Community Time (a whole group gathering of games, excursions and such) and Small Group.

Now, onto the fun stuff - reflection!

I have made life long friends because of YITS. I didn't necessarily choose my friends, but we were meant to be. I also have best friends because of YITS! Life long friends is one thing, but best friends are really the best.

Having said that, I have lost touch with some people I did YITS with, and people I thought I would stay close to haven't really followed though. Most of my close friends have said similar things. On the other hand, a ready made community does have problems. There is almost always going to be someone you don't agree with or get frustrated by. At the end of YITS, this was almost everybody - I was sick of doing everything together all of the time! I got over that pretty quickly though.

Community was obviously a really important thing about YITS. The leaders tried so hard to make us a community, but it was hard to come unstuck at the end. For a whole year I had 50ish someones to rely on for social occasions, Thursday night fun and pancakes.... And then, there was nothing. One of the downfalls of the program has to this community break up. It is part of the reason I chose Tabor as my uni of choice for studying Education, and I was probably a little misinformed about this. No regrets because I also met an amazing bunch of people through Education and it was worth most of the wasted minutes in lecture.

There were lots of expectations of YITS Couples - this is dumb! I was briefly one of these, and it's even worse than getting the old dumperoo when you're in high school because everyone knows and wants to help you reflect on where things went wrong.

In YITS there were plenty of weird and sometimes unspoken rules about sex. It is totally not okay to be having it, and sexual orientation was assumed to be us heteros only. Apparently there were some Seinfeld The Contest contests happening (ew) and keeping each other accountable was just something we had to do. One thing which grounded me was a really frank panel on sex during second term, but again, I'm sure that fast forward to now, things would be a lot different.

One interesting thing I found about YITS was that a lot of people knew each other (I think myself and Rozzy were about the only people who knew no one at all), and this added to the bizarre group dynamics a bit. Also, people going off for things outside of YITS, such as church camps, did phase me a little... but not too much. There is only so much you want to do with people you see most days of the week!

A lot of people said things like 'So you moved to Adelaide just do this?', as if I was some crazy person. Yes, YITS was totally my adventure, and one I wanted for a long time. I feel I was called to do it and be part of it.

They said to us at the start that people would leave our YITS community, and at the time I didn't really believe it. I was a bit heartbroken when one of the most dynamic and funny guys left the course and he was the first one to go. Others left too, but the first one was always the hardest. To some, doing YITS wasn't a priority in their life, and while I understand it, I also think, 'well, why not just leave properly?' About half of us graduated. Our course wasn't overly difficult, with one exception: Biblical Studies. This was my favourite lecture because our lecturer was awesome and made studying the Bible incredibly interesting, but I really struggled with presenting my assignments with enough knowledge that wasn't just in my head.

By time the last month or so of YITS arrived, I left ready to leave. I felt a little stifled by my community, and was very much in the middle of a love/hate moment with always doing everything together all of the time. I was sick of being forced to do another ice breaker game or write letters to myself, and all of those things on offer. When it was over a bunch of us went to the Schoolies Festival to serve with Encounter Youth (now much more affectionately known as the Green Team). On top of all the abrasive clashes and frustrations, more drama was happening in my own life, and there were a few times I left my dorm and slept under my blanket in the car, just to get away from it all for a bit.

Having said all of that, I did dearly love my friends, and if the Schoolies trip was just filled with friends and ultra supportive people (ugh, save me from the 'fun' people), I probably wouldn't have found myself crashed out on a couch in the vollies tent after a moment in which I ranted and raved (normal) and someone said some pretty unhelpful things (hey, I'm sensitive). That's how my YITS journey ended, really, and I was kind of happy.

In some ways, this isn't a great way to end my reflection... because I really loved the entire year full of experience I had at Bible College. I remember so many good times, like pancakes, performing at Family and Friends Night, the boys putting on a formal dinner for the girls, plotting leaf surprises for everyone, nights out with friends, a sleepover at Denessa's house, a special note from Steve while we were working (Steve is the best), Spiritual Growth, hiding other people's shoes, hanging out on the Torrens River for an afternoon, late night messages and Jon's jokes.

The year outside of YITS was tough for me, with  moving, moving again, living in a youth hostel, getting over the car accident and all the associated physio by myself, feeling incredibly lonely, a depressive episode and just really confusing things happening around me. I am eternally grateful to my Mum for coming to stay with me for six weeks, as well as an extra two or three every now and then, to help me get through some tough times. She stayed with me during my last term of YITS, which I don't have a lot of memories of, with the exception of Mum fussing about the house, making me yummy dinners and going out for lots of coffee. Why don't I remember that time? It's almost as if I closed down for a little bit, and reopened shop when everything was okay again.

Over all, I am really grateful for everything I did during YITS. I discovered a lot about God, about myself, and about friendship. My advice is this - if you ever get a chance to do a gap year course, like Big Year Out (offered by Uniting College, check them out) - do it! It is totally worth it.