I truly believe in direct communication, it has become an identifiable piece of who I am. The same way I am identified as a horse lover, a Camp Director or a person committed to equality, I am a person dedicated to direct communication. Now if you had asked me as an 18 year old, lets say, “what do you think direct communication is?” it would not have been close to what I now understand it to be.
So what is direct Communication? Well there are different ways to communicate and probably different definitions of what people think of as direct communication. At Longacre it is the belief that we are happiest in our lives if we are our most authentic selves. We can only truly get there if we are aware of how we move through the world and how we impact others. At Longacre sharing stuff about ourselves and hearing feedback is how we get there. Susan Smith does a way great job of explaining this, I can hear her voice right now!
In 2006 Susan hired me to be the horse staff member at Longacre. It was my first job in America after marrying Jake and choosing to move across the pond. What an experience!!! There is no way I could list the lessons learned, the experiences gained or the importance of that summer. Group, Longacre’s communication model, was so foreign to me, sitting in the Octagon that first night in 2006 was scary and yet also liberating. “So I can really express to this group of strangers how I am feeling? And it’s ok? Even if I feel sad or angry or unsure?” NO WAY.
That first summer Susan was patient and encouraging. My thoughts were valuable and it was ok to not seem “together” all the time. Being vulnerable and real brought me closer to other people, I was not judged, I was able to just be myself. I found that I was happier, lighter, I was not always thinking about what others thought of me or trying to read between the lines of what people were saying. Because we were all dedicated to this idea of speaking your truth. It also got me thinking about how I was as an employee, a member of a team, was I listening to others? Was I acting selfishly? The list goes on.
So maybe some people think “yeah of course, honesty is the best policy” but it is super hard to always be able to identify your truth and then speak it to others in a caring and clear way. I used to be really defensive, and found it difficult to hear feedback from others, I would think, “ they didn't understand where I was coming from”, or “I didn't mean it that way”. I couldn't hear them.
2018 will be my 13th summer at Longacre. I feel so grateful and as committed to direct communication as ever. Now don’t get me wrong it’s not always easy to hear uncomfortable feedback from a friend, a camper, a staffer or a family member. It stings a little, yet I am at a point now where my first feeling is gratitude that someone else is giving me the gift of their honesty.
I have found that my relationships with others are closer. I feel especially close to my sisters, Rachel and Natasha. They understand and know me better than ever, through sharing thoughts and sometimes difficult feelings with them and hearing their feedback. I feel like I am more the person I want to be, I am being true to myself and others in my life.
This is the gift we give to farmers every summer at Longacre.
That first night of this summer in the Octagon I will look around at the faces of our farmers and know we are creating a space where they can think about who and how they want to be in this world. That we are committed to supporting them on this journey.