From one of the winners of the NCS Creator competition, Emily, is this wonderfully written story of what her experience on NCS was like.
This time last year, I was nobody.
Of course, that’s not entirely true. I was getting by, so to speak, minding my own business whilst coasting along in my own little fantasy world.
My experience with the National Citizen Service has been, in many ways, the key to the locked door labelled “FUTURE” which I had been vacantly gawping at for so much of my adolescent life. It’s not that I wasn’t trying to get through; it was more like I had been brainwashed into thinking that life was easy. By the time you reach my age, even the thought of the term work experience begins to tickle your nerves. Everybody wants it! Employers, Universities, UCAS, you name it.
But, on the morning of August 11th, 2016, I felt more sick-to-my-stomach with anxiety than I had when coming out for the first time – my alarm screaming obscenities at me for the fourth or fifth time that morning.
Looking back now, I can’t help but laugh at my last-minute aversion towards the whole thing. On that morning, I just didn’t want anything to do with NCS! “I’M NOT GOING!” I screamed at my poor mother as she hammered on my bedroom door. The thing about my pre-NCS self is that, unlike now, I had next to no control over my mental health. I was riddled with anxiety, with generous helpings of depression, PTSD, and OCD mixed in. Meeting new people was one of my biggest fears, succeeding my crippling phobia of judgement, and so I was practically drowning in the proposal of meeting an entire wave of complete strangers.
What did I think would happen? I have no clue. Whatever it was, however, it couldn’t have been further from the reality. I stepped foot through those doors, both hands shaking as I hauled behind me the most tragic offense of over-packing known to man, and I found myself greeted by the most sympathetically sweet smile I had ever seen. That smile belonged to an equally sweet woman, who took that stupid yellow suitcase of mine and led me to my group.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Before me sat the most incredible group of people I have ever had the honour to meet. No monsters. No ruffians or thugs. Just real, INCREDIBLE people. People who wanted to get to know me, who cared about me and the constant film references I make. People who would grow to be my fiercest friends, who in the next few weeks would learn more about me than I knew about myself at that point in time. People who, for the first time in my life, I could connect with.
The funny thing about NCS is that, for me at least, it never seems to end. It’s like going to Disneyland, only for the magic to return home with you and slip into your mundane life, opening up doors to fantastic opportunities which you would have only dreamed of before. Since graduating, I have had my first part-time job, helped The Challenge to choose this years’ batch of Senior Mentors, and even begun to launch my writing career. It astonishes me that, a year ago, I was one of the shyest kids I knew – a cloud with no destination – and now I am on my way to publishing my first novel and getting my A-Levels! Now, free of the shackles of my mental health, I am able to pass through that door into a world of possibilities, and NCS was my key.
Read the original on her blog here!