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Over the past week, we have gotten to know Emily Jensen, one of our much loved youth workers at the centre. In the weeks to come, we will continue to get to know various staff and volunteers over our social platforms. So if you’re not already, follow us on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Youtube — whichever virtual community you find yourself in! — at YFC London.

Emily set the tone of the interview by sharing a story of a time in college when she accidentally joined a break dancing class! She was credited as “hardest working dancer” over the year, and stuck with it for all four years of school. Emily then shared her signature move with us — whacking! Be sure to click the link and watch the interview to catch her tips!

The conversation moved to the skills Emily is most known for — baking and cooking! She shared her favourite hack — making all ingredients room temperature (including milk and eggs) to ensure a smooth batter. Emily also shared about the virtual cooking class that is happening while we’re in isolation. Each week, each student is contacted to make sure they have the ingredients they’ll need for that class’ recipe. The missing groceries are delivered to their home in time for the class. Emily is open to suggestions if there’s something specific you would like to learn, but stir fry and doughnuts are on the agenda for next week! Shoot us a message to sign up!

Asked what she would tell her teenage self, Emily said it would be to not put so much pressure on herself. Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are while being surrounded by messages of what success looks like, and even competing to be the best in sports and academics, etc. If you’re not putting that pressure on yourself, you have the opportunity to try new things without fear of failure. You can join that club or team, take that job — even make that friendship that might seem like a leap outside of your comfort zone, if your main focus is your own growth and enjoyment and passion for life. “I discovered some things kinda later in life that I really wished I allowed myself to go try when I was younger, and if I hadn’t been so worried about being perfect, I might have done those things a little sooner.” Sometimes we need to get out of our own way.

Diving deeper into her high school experience, Emily shared what first got her passionate about youth work. She had always found it easy to have fun with her family and friends on the weekends — having campfires, going on hikes, playing games, watching movies. She didn’t understand why her peers need alcohol and parties to have a good time. Once she had graduated, Emily studied recreation and leisure (“which is basically the science of fun”) to answer the question of what makes things fun for people. Through learning about our brains and how we socialise and have fun, what makes us laugh and how we make friends, she began to understand why parties were so important to her friends growing up and became passionate about offering alternative fun.

When asked what she’s found challenging about bringing youth work to a virtual world, Emily said she misses being able to spot the individual in the group setting — the one playing basketball alone or off to the side reading. You can easily spot who might be feeling lonely and support them, whereas now you have to trust they’ll come to you. “I’ve been challenged to let people tell me what they need… Figuring out what’s going to be helpful to them — what kind of zoom programs, like baking or cooking. What else can I do to make sure that I’m staying connected with people that matter to me, and then how can I stay connected with people in a way that matters to them too. We’ve gotta stick together through something like this, and I’ve just been really changed to figure out what the secret to that is. How can we stay more connected — have as much fun as possible — despite the circumstances and continue to grow in our relationships?”

Emily has been reminded through isolation how important it is to be outside for everyone for the sake of our wellbeing, physically and emotionally. She’s realising on a personal level how much she needs to be out connecting with nature. Emily’s also been challenged to make time for the things that bring her joy that may have been put on hold before COVID due to the busyness of life. “There has to be a point where I carve out time to go do those things that are just for me and God to just enjoy together. I’ve been realising how important it is to carve out that time. Especially when you’re working from home, making sure that you’re giving yourself grace to have that balance. It’s not just so you can serve, but it does allow you to serve, I think, with more freedom and more joy.” It’s also part of being human; we need to sow into the just-for-fun things to help us flourish. It’s a discipline we need to learn to carve out that time and prioritise it.

To watch the full interview, click the link below. Make sure you watch till the end for the dance-off!

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Post Author: Jess Coolidge