This year has been a precarious one. For teens, who even under “normal” circumstances experience a wide range of sometimes-overwhelming, often-fluctuating, intense emotions, it is imperative they have a safe space to express themselves. In Dream Up Now™, authors Rayne Lacko and Lesley Holmes encourage teens to explore their inherent creativity with guided activities for drawing, listening to music, and putting pen to paper as they process emotions, discover more about themselves, and pursue what they want out of life.
To give you a peek into the activities laid out in the book, in this issue of Upbeat News, we share an excerpt that features one set of emotions: anxiety and passion. Read that below. More related resources are at the bottom of the page.
I Feel . . . Anxious ➡️ I Feel . . . Passionate
Adapted from Dream Up Now™: The Teen Journal for Creative Self-Discovery
by Rayne Lacko, with community outreach advisor Lesley Holmes.
I Feel . . . Anxious
vulnerability / shame / powerlessness / sensitivity / worrying about outcomes
Meet Rayne Lacko
As a teen, Rayne dealt with anxiety by escaping into a daydream life, creating made-up characters who lived dramatic and romantic lives of creativity and confidence, unlike her own in small-town Canada. A common trigger of anxiety is having to commit to one potential interest or path while giving up other equally tempting choices. Unsure of what the future held for her, Rayne studied liberal arts in college to feed her many passions: reading books, discussing music and philosophy, writing, and studying languages. She longed to travel to the faraway places she read about and immerse herself in the languages she floundered with in textbooks. From college into adulthood, she traveled, always seeking a place to call home. She now lives happily on a forested island with her husband, children, dog, and cat.
Rayne believes music, language, and art connect us, and she explores those themes in her books, A Song for the Road
and Dream Up Now
. Rayne grew up in Canada, earning a liberal arts degree in Toronto, including a semester in Spain, and a graphic design diploma in Vancouver. She migrated to the West Coast to San Diego and Orange County, California, where she attended UCLA’s writer’s program. She now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where she is secretary on the board of trustees at a performing arts organization. She cohosts a library youth writing workshop and an annual filled-to-capacity writing camp, and she established Teen Creatives Live, a twice-annual open mic event for teens. For over a decade, Rayne edited an outdoor adventure magazine. Learn more at raynelacko.com
Anxiety looks different for everyone. Growing up, I was terrified of revealing my inner world. Some people choose to hide the workings of their hearts by keeping to themselves, becoming stoic and cold, and that makes sense. Me? I became a writer. My entire career objective is to reveal the scenes playing out in my head—and make them compelling for others.
Another anxiety trigger for me is public speaking. Ironically, I choose to teach creative writing to teens, and even helped establish Teen Creatives Live, an open mic event. It may seem like I’m weirdly into self-torture, but I’m so passionate about writing (and writers) that I’ve learned to accept that I’ll be anxious and just do scary things like public speaking anyway.
What triggers your anxiety? Big tests and exams? Important athletic competitions? Dating? Your anxiety is tied to the emotions you have about the thing that worries you. The more important the thing is (for me, it’s writing and teaching), the more emotions you’ll have about it.
Some would say I’m “too sensitive.” I cry during movies or books when the characters find hope after despair or realize a bitter and painful truth and grow stronger from it. My emotional reactions to events (even fictional ones) are very real. I have to avoid horror movies and situations with terror or abuse themes because I get absorbed in the sadness. Often, I don’t let on about how I feel. Have you had a similar experience?
There’s a risk involved in exposing your true feelings because emotions are fluid—they flow and change. They can be like music: rising and falling, growing louder, and then fading away. No two people read the exact same book or hear the exact same song, because we all react to the world with our own point of view. Exposing our emotions can seem like a dangerous risk because we don’t know what others will think or how they will react to us, and that can spark anxiety. But the problem with anxiety is that if we try to hold it down, it tends to grow. Anxiety fights back, demanding to be looked in the face and reckoned with.
Dream Up Now
So what can you and I do with anxiety? Download the Dream Up Now activity pages for anxiety here
I Feel . . . Passionate
courage / pursuing goals / finding joy / helping others / standing up for your beliefs
Meet Rayne Lacko
Pursuing the things that give you the most energy and enthusiasm is essential to a life of joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s taking the scary first steps on the road to your dreams, trying out for a sports team or part in a play, or simply mustering the courage to have a difficult conversation with a friend or an adult in your life, you are often called to “perform.” Rayne confides her secret mantra for pursuing her goals passionately and presents a game plan for juggling anxiety with acts of courage. (For more about Rayne, see above.)
But what if you haven’t discovered where your true strengths and talents lie? Rayne offers straightforward advice for manifesting a passionate life.
Before my passion found me, I never even considered teaching teens or writing Young Adult (YA) books. When I was a kid, I had many career dreams, but the two ongoing ones were 1) becoming a rock star, and 2) making my literary mark on the world. As an introvert with an off-pitch singing voice and a bad case of stage fright, the rock star fantasy hasn’t exactly panned out.
A few years back, I was on the board of a literary event–planning organization, and one of the members asked me if I’d take over for her as a teen writing mentor. This person was a brilliant writer, but first and foremost my friend. I couldn’t say no because of my deep respect for her.
Discovering what the teen writers in the workshop were working on, I found their ideas refreshingly original, honest, and vulnerable. Whatever fears I had about getting up in front of a class were forgotten, because I wanted to walk with each writer through his/her/their journey and to see their stories come to “The End.” I was hooked. Working with teens lit me up, inspired me, and reinvigorated my own writing. I switched gears and started writing alongside them, focusing on the YA category. I found that I receive more joy in helping other people be creative than I do from
pursuing my personal goals. Making other people’s lives amazing is among the most powerful pleasures known to humankind.
So I found other ways for the writers to shine, creating Teen Creatives Live, an open mic event, with my friends at my local library. The more you give of yourself and try things that are “scary,” the more you’ll find what matters to you, and the clearer you’ll be about the life you wish to create.
Don’t know what you’re passionate about yet? All through high school, teens have a ton of pressure around what the future holds. I encourage you to give up waiting for the perfect gig or the one thing you think you can stick with forever. Taking a job (any legitimate paying position) gets you unstuck. Going to college (for anything you don’t abjectly hate) gets you unstuck. Volunteering (in any capacity for a worthy cause you believe in) gets you unstuck.
Choosing to commit to something gives you a reason to get up in the morning and a place to go where people need you. It’s totally okay not to know what you’ll be doing a few years from now because the most fulfilling passions are those that find you.
Let me tell you a little secret. Passion is contagious. When you’re fully present and giving yourself to whatever task you’re doing, people around you notice and want in on your good vibes. Passionate people are drawn to passionate people.
As an introvert, I am terrified (every time!) of standing up in front of the class. But I’m more afraid of missing out on something that brings me real and lasting happiness. So I have a little mantra I tell myself: anxiety, or it didn’t happen
I look at anxiety as a badge of honor. It means I got out there and did something that scared me. Believe me, I’ve accomplished all I can inside my comfort zone. Everything good that I want is outside my comfort zone. I had to decide to stop craving comfort all the time to find my passion.
Dream Up Now
Keeping in mind that you aren’t locked in forever, try giving your 100 percent enthusiasm and interest when working at your part-time job, doing your homework, practicing a musical instrument or sport, or even when helping with the laundry—just as an experiment to see what happens.
Act like your life depends on it, like you’re making a difference, and like your part counts, because in reality it does—for you. Whether there are external rewards or not, you’ll get your own reward. You’ll build a passionate life, and you’ll find out what is or isn’t your thing, because you gave it your all. For more advice on finding your passion, check out the online leadership guide at freespirit.com/dream
Download the activity pages to set a goal
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