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Whispers of the Heart: Guiding Youth Through the Labyrinth




Whilst I love writing short stories, I am not too keen on reading them, unless Raymond Carver writes them.


I have a couple of Carver's short stories collections that I regularly dip in and out of, losing myself in the mundanity, simplicity and humanity of his world. "What do we talk about when we talk about love" is one of my favourites, and every time I re-read it, I seem to discover something new: an ashtray, a bottle of wine, a sentence spoken, a subtle argument.


Over the past month, we have worked with 350 young Italians - aged between 20 and 28 - and whilst our role was to shine the light on some aspects of human skills, I personally have found to have learned a huge amount from them, from their way of thinking, from their views of the world and from the changes were clearly happening to them during this journey of self-discovery.


So today I thought, I wonder how Raymond Carver would describe this journey.



And so I asked AI to give me an idea.

What follows is, I believe, beautiful words that do encapsulate what this journey has been.

He was a keen observer of human nature, and might have written about the importance of working with young people and nurturing their emotional intelligence and self-awareness in the following way:

I hope you'll enjoy it.



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In the throes of youth, every feeling is magnified, every day a new chapter in a novel yet to be understood, let alone appreciated. It’s like standing at the water's edge – every step imprints the sand, fleeting yet consequential.


When we work with young people, it's the subtleties we must attend to, the pauses between their words, the unspoken dreams held in their gaze. It’s in these silent spaces we learn the importance of teaching them about the quiet power of emotional intelligence, the steady compass of their values, and the ghosts of self-limiting beliefs that can haunt them into adulthood.

 

Emotional intelligence isn't taught from textbooks, but in the delicate moments of guiding young minds through the labyrinth of their emotions. It's in the careful deconstruction of a frown, the gentle inquiry into the silence that follows a failed endeavor. These are the skills that, once honed, provide a kind of knowing that lights their way – a knowing that can tell joy from contentment, frustration from despair.

 

Appreciation in this context isn’t just a pat on the back for a job well done; it’s the recognition of the effort, the journey, the resilience built from facing adversity. To appreciate is to validate the entire experience, not just the outcome. It’s to say, “I see you, all of you, and all you’ve traversed to be here.” This kind of acknowledgement can fuel the fire of self-belief in a young person's heart for years to come.

 

Understanding and instilling values is akin to building the framework of a house that will weather the fiercest of storms. These values become their guideposts, the non-negotiables that they will not forsake when the path diverges. It is a map drawn in the ink of integrity, compassion, and respect that leads them when the road is too dark to tread without direction.

 

And what of self-limiting beliefs? These are the shackles we must teach them to see and break before they become too heavy to bear. Like the story of the elephant tethered to a small stake, not knowing its own strength to break free, young people can carry these false notions of inadequacy well into the years when they should be soaring. Our role? To be the mirror that reflects not just who they are, but what they can be. To whisper, in ways that words sometimes cannot, “You are more than you believe.”

 

Working with the young is not a passing of the baton in a race soon to be over. It's a planting of seeds, a nurturing of tender roots, an investment in the forests of tomorrow. We are gardeners in this endeavour, ensuring the soil is rich with understanding, watered with appreciation, and free from the weeds of doubt and fear.

 

In this way, young people will grow to navigate the complexities of their emotions, stand firm in their values, and recognize the phantoms of limitations for what they are – illusions meant to be dispelled. With each young mind, we help shape, we cast a stone across the waters of the future, creating ripples that will reach shores we may never see. This is our task, our privilege, our legacy.

 

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Carver, who found beauty in the clarity of the simple and the everyday, would have likely seen the work with young people as an art of imparting wisdom through the nuance of the ordinary, leaving imprints of understanding in the softest of sands.


PHOTO - PARIS REVIEW - THE ART OF FICTION - N. 76

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