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It's Okay not to be Okay

by Rob Watson 5 months ago in Young Adult
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A Short story about youth workers

A youth work residential trip. Picturesque setting in North Wales. A group of fifteen to seventeen-year olds coming to the realisation that it is possible to enjoy themselves without Wifi. Rock climbing, abseiling, raft building, team challenges, problem solving and games of rounders and casual kickabouts. Long summer days perfect for evening campfires. A great chance to have old fashioned fun, leave all the stresses of the modern world behind, make new friends and allow the true version of themselves to flourish. The previous night this particular trip had taken a sickening turn for the worse.

Ozzie the senior youth worker on the trip had got two of his staff team over for a quiet word on the following evening.

‘First of all I just wanted to check that you’re both okay? Please let me know if you need to chat about how you feel about last night. As you know I’ve been doing this for a long time and that is just about as tough as it gets for a youth worker.’

‘I’m good,’ Jay said as he slowly nodded.

‘I’m probably going to want a chat at some point over the next week or so, but I’m okay for now thanks,’ Saffron said.

‘Again I want to thank you for last night, you did everything spot on. Going to the hospital with her as well, I know how tough that must have been for you,’ Ozzie said to Saffron.

‘It’s totally okay, she’s such a hunnie, I just hope I helped her a little bit. Did you let her parents know?’

‘Yeah that wasn’t a fun phone call to be making at any time, let alone four o’clock in the morning.’

‘How did they handle it?’ Jay asked.

‘It was her Dad I spoke to and he was really calm, bizarrely so, but I guess it’s because of the amount of times she’s tried it in the past.’

‘Was he not upset at all?’ Saffron asked.

‘He was concerned, don’t get me wrong, he just wasn’t anything like as emotional as I was expecting. He asked if I knew why she had done it and I said it was the usual flashbacks and that no lad had been getting particularly close to her.’

‘Can’t begin to imagine what it’s like having a daughter doing something like that,’ Saffron said.

‘I’m not sure that I want to imagine that,’ Ozzie said. ‘Anyway I just wanted to catch up with you guys in particular with Sienna being in your group.’

‘Is she staying on the programme?’ Jay asked incredulously.

‘She has already told me that she wants to carry on, so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure she does,’ Ozzie said firmly.

‘How are we supposed to work with and around her? The training didn’t cover how to deal with a girl who has just tried to kill herself,’ Jay said.

‘I don’t think any training could make you feel perfectly comfortable in handling a situation like that. We are going to do all we can to make sure that she feels completely supported and comfortable talking to any of us about anything she wants to talk about. She’s had plenty of people give up on her in the past, I don’t want us to be the latest.’

‘I’m not being funny but we’re not qualified to deal with stuff like this, I know I’m certainly not. The coach gets here at ten in the morning, as soon as she gets off that coach back home it’s effectively the weekend and not our responsibility anymore, can’t we just fuck it and pass her on to another agency?’ Jay said.

Saffron fixed Jay with an icy stare, took a sharp in-take of breathe and bit her bottom lip. Ozzie stepped towards Jay until their faces were only a foot or so apart and made intense eye contact.

‘I know this is your first time doing this job,’ Ozzie spoke calmly without losing any of the focus in his glare. ‘But right now you are a youth worker, so let me explain to you a little about what that means. We are the inspirational, important, invisible army, that no one fully understands. We are teachers of all the subjects you never learn in the class room. Young people are often restricted by life, we are the ones that set them free to be their authentic self. They get talked at all the time, we talk to them. Constantly they are being told to listen, but no one listens to them. For many we are the only adults they trust, respect and listen to, because we are the first to trust, respect and listen to them. We can be their first glimpse into the great future they could have. We might be their last chance before heading down the wrong road that they’ll be stuck on forever. Life is an ocean that young people have been thrown into, all of them are drowning for one reason or the other. We are the ones who teach them how to swim,’ Ozzie took a deep breath and moved in slightly closer to Jay. ‘Just fuck it is not an option!’ Ozzie raised his voice ever so slightly.

Jay closed his eyes briefly, then nodded whilst looking at Ozzie.

Half an hour or so later Ozzie was slowly walking around checking that all the young people in his care were somewhere they were supposed to be and were all okay. The daylight had completely gone, but it was still a warm summer’s evening. Some illumination was provided by a combination of the moon and the stars along with a few erratically spaced lights around the premises. Ozzie spotted a young lady on her own, sat on the floor and leaning up against a wall. He wandered slowly over to her.

‘Hey Sienna, is it okay if I sit with you?’

‘Yeah of course.’

Ozzie sat down on the floor next to Sienna, leaning up against the same wall. ‘Daft question out of the way first, how are you doing?’

Sienna produced a little smile. ‘I’m okay, a lot better I promise.’

About a hundred yards or so in the direction they were facing was the halls where their group were staying in for the week, most of the rest of the young people were hanging out just outside that building.

‘They must really wind you up sometimes,’ Ozzie said.

‘I could say the same to you, but you never show it,’ Sienna replied.

‘You weren’t there when I spoke to that group that wandered off site to get to the shop without telling me.’

Sienna let out a little laugh. ‘Oh I heard about that, Scarlett said it was the best and fairest bollocking she has ever had, but also one of the scariest. Noah said he thought he actually nearly shit himself.’

It was Ozzie’s turn to laugh. ‘Good to know I got my message across, I was wondering why they had been nice to me all day today.’

‘Why do you think they would wind me up?’ Sienna asked.

‘I really do like them as a group, but what a bunch of whingers. I think there’s some of them that if I gave them a million pound coins they would complaining about it being too heavy. Hearing them complaining about such petty little things, when you’ve been through all that horrific stuff in your past, I would have thought that would get annoying.’

‘That actually doesn’t bother me, I know everyone has their own shit to deal with.’

‘That is so true, it took me a long time to realise that everyone is going through something, everybody has some aspect of their life that is not as they would want it. Of course for some people it’s a lot more severe than others.’

‘Yeah exactly.’

‘I’ve heard you can play ten different musical instruments, is that right?’ Ozzie checked.


‘Wow, learning a musical instrument has been on my to do list for ages and I’ve never even managed to learn one. What ten are they?’

‘Piano, guitar, violin, cello, oboe, harp, flute, clarinet, trumpet and drums.’

‘Literally a one woman band. Which one’s your favourite?’

‘Depends what mood I’m in, if I’m stressed out then there’s nothing like a good drum session. But piano is my favourite.’

‘I’d imagine they all can be therapeutic.’

‘Oh definitely, I literally don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for music.’

‘How did you learn so many?’

‘The hospital that I spent way too much time in didn’t have a lot of resources, but one thing it did have was an amazing music room. With not much access to TV and a really crappy library, music became the way I spent most of my time.’

‘Did you teach yourself?’

‘One of the nurses was really good on the piano, and one of the cleaners could play the guitar. They got me started, but most of it was just off you tube.’

‘Definitely one of the more productive ways to spend time on you tube,’ Ozzie said with a smile. ‘Is there an element of once you’ve learned one the next one is easier, especially with the ones that are similar.’

‘Once you’ve learned the violin it’s easier to learn the oboe and cello, but there are definitely differences to so it would be difficult to be proper good at all of them.’

‘Have you actually got all those instruments at home now?’

‘At least one of each yeah.’

‘That’s one heck of a home collection.’

‘The result of having a family that perhaps aren’t sure how to express any love, sympathy or guilt that they might be feeling, so instead they just spend money on you.’

‘I can see that,’ Ozzie nodded sombrely. ‘Too bad you didn’t get into studying diamonds when you were in hospital!’

Sienna’s laugh was the sweetest music Ozzie could have heard. ‘They’re nowhere near that rich!’ She replied and continued to smile.

‘You’re fluent in sign language as well aren’t you?’


‘What made you learn that? Is a family member deaf?’

‘No it was a young girl in the same hospital ward, she taught me the basics then I kept teaching myself more signs each day so that I could communicate better with her.’

‘That’s a cute story. What would you like to do with your life?’

‘Is that youth worker talk for what job do I want?’

‘Damn it you’re on to me. People normally take months before cracking my codes. Job just sounds so mundane.’

‘It does, I know what you mean. I actually want to do something with my sign language, I’d love to be able to help people who are deaf in some way, maybe teach sign language as well.’

‘That would be such a great way to make a living. Would you not want to do something with your music too?’

‘I think I’d want to keep music as purely a hobby and my therapy.’

‘Oh okay I get that,’ he said then looked at his watch. ‘Looks like it’s time to start heading to our rooms.’

‘Yeah, I’m good to head over now.’

‘Please, please, please, promise me that if you want a chat any time, any time at all, please just knock on my door.’

‘You climbed a mountain today on one hour’s sleep, I think you deserve am uninterrupted night.’

‘It’s only just barely a mountain, it’s basically just a big hill and power naps are what it’s all about. Seriously I’d much rather you woke me up. It doesn’t have to be me either, I’ve known Saffron and Morgan since they were your age and they are two of the best listeners I’ve ever met, and of course they are girls so I won’t take it at all personally if you would rather talk to them.’

‘What about Jay and Deon?’ Sienna said with a cheeky smile.

‘This is the first time I’ve worked with them two and they most definitely do have some great qualities, they can energise and motivate a group and certainly get them laughing, but if it’s a serious chat you want I think they would agree with me in recommending Saffron and Morgan. But by all means chat to Jay and Deon too if you want.’

‘I know I’m just kidding. Thanks Ozzie,’ Sienna said as she stood up.

‘No problem at all, I should be thanking you, I have a massive super hero complex and you have given me the perfect opportunity to put on my cape and mask,’ Ozzie said as he joined Sienna standing up.

‘That is just a metaphorical cape and mask right?’ Sienna checked with another smile.

‘Yeah don’t worry, I won’t be in fancy dress next week.’

‘Good to know.’

‘I’ve got to say that I am a massive fan of mental toughness, and I think with all you have been through, for you to still be here and have done all the things you’ve done. You are my idol.’

‘Aww that’s so nice.’

‘I one hundred percent mean it. And remember as my good friend Jessie J says….’

‘I know, it’s okay to not be okay,’ Sienna interrupted.

‘That’s the one.’


Young Adult

About the author

Rob Watson

I love writing, and I love sport. So many of my stories will be about sport. But I also love writing fiction too, so there will be short stories, extracts from novels and maybe some scripts and even some poems too.

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