"Egocentric, stubborn, narrow-minded and patronising"
This time last year, I would have described myself with these 4 adjectives. I was constantly stressed and worried about my GCSE exams. It was the most important aspect of my life and it was affecting my relationships with my friends, and anything like NCS was a snort-worthy joke that I did not care for; I have never been so mistaken and deluded in my life.
Eventually, after what felt like a century, I got through my exams. I had signed up to NCS in January, but my plan was to complete the adventure week and miss the other phases. When the day came for me to board the coach to travel from Worcester to Preston, I hadn't even packed yet and it felt impossible to get excited with everything on my mind. When we arrived at Preston, and waited for everyone to turn up, I looked around the room at the bizarre faces and instantly regretted saying ‘yes’ to this experience. That first night, I didn't sleep. I sat up looking back at the past 9 months and realised, I was not happy. I had lost all my friends due to my behavior (being angry), my escape mechanism of sport seemed to strain me even more than it relieved me, plus I had finished my exams and felt disappointed with my performance. I let these negative things define me, I let those 4 adjectives define how I would live every single day and I was not happy. I remembered all those bizarre faces, and realized that those bizarre faces actually didn't know a thing about me. Nobody knew my past, all they would know is my future and it was my responsibility to define that. So, that night I changed my outlook and decided, "I am going to use this opportunity to make friends, but also prove to myself that in fact I, Bryony Danks, can be a nice person."
The next four weeks changed my life. I went through the 3 phases of NCS with adventure week, skills week and social action. I was surrounded by a wonderful group of people who accepted me for who I was, and I accepted them for who they were. For the first time in a long time, I was truly happy. "I don't know why people have a negative image of you, as you're truly one of the loveliest, most kindhearted people I have ever met." This was a comment from a fellow graduate that changed me; It made me realise I was doing something right. With this happiness of being myself I now had the confidence to tell my best friend the biggest secret I had ever withheld.
I then received an email asking me to complete an application form to apply to become an NCS Leader. I didn't know what this meant and the email talked about a week in October near London alongside 119 other NCS graduates from across England and Northern Ireland. "Only 120 places, pfft… I'm never going to get a spot,” I thought, but I signed up anyway as there was nothing to lose. I recorded a 30-second video and sent it off and later received an email saying that I was actually selected to be an NCS Leader. I was over the moon, not only because I was going to London for a week (and for free), but because I was also going to meet all these passionate and driven teenagers all wanting to make a difference. Little did I know that on the final day of NCS Leaders, I would stand up in front of all 106 other leaders, the staff and all of the NCS partners and representatives from across the country, telling them how NCS Leaders Week had made me go from good to great to awesome. I swung open the closet and leaped out of it jumping with joy, and told 150+ people that I was bisexual and that thanks to NCS, I was able to be 100% authentic and that it's okay to be gay.
NCS Leaders was the greatest experience of my life. I felt like I was part of something truly special.
Since returning, I have come out as bisexual to my family and to the whole sixth form in a presentation. I’ve become Chair of the Sixth Form Cabinet, and started up my new scheme to encourage people to be 100% authentic with my, "it's okay to be gay" scheme which aims to educate young people about the huge variance of sexuality so they don’t have to struggle the way I did. As they say, I haven't done NCS, I am doing NCS and I hope that I will be able to say this for a very long time.
So now, I'm not the egocentric, stubborn, narrow-minded and patronising girl I was this time last year. Thanks to NCS, I am now the happy, passionate, driven, confident and a little bit gay girl.
And I wouldn't change a thing.