Over the last several years, I have grown into a person so different from myself even two years ago, that I am not certain those who knew me then would now recognize me as the same young woman. This growth has turned me into a wholly different person. I am now bold where I once hesitated. I speak for myself and for others, when not so long ago I was a silent observer. I say yes to many challenges where before I might have once said no out of fear. Recently, I have been spending a significant amount of time examining why this change came about. Did my friends encourage me to become more confident? My family? As I dug more deeply, I found that, overwhelmingly, these personal changes were just that. They are choices I made. I looked at myself and saw wasted potential, and I made changes.
One of the largest changes I wanted to make to myself was to deal with my fear. I very frequently said no to opportunities or simply ignored them because I was afraid. I spent years stagnant. I got straight A’s in high school and was involved in school activities, but I did nothing outside of school. Eventually, though, I took a leap. My junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to enter an essay contest for an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., which was one of my dream locations to visit. The reward of an opportunity outweighed my fear for probably the first time. I spent hours and hours working on that paper. I submitted it, and, several weeks later, I found out that I had won. The anticipation building up to the trip was one of the most anxiety ridden times of my life, but once I got to D.C. with about 50 other students from Missouri, I found that I had the time of my life. Taking a risk and putting myself out there had paid off tremendously.
I wish I could say that all my problems with fear holding me back stopped that week. In reality, it is something I am still working on over two years later as I wrap up my freshman year of college. I still hesitate to step outside my comfort zone. What separates me from myself two years ago, though, is that after that initial hesitation I almost always say yes to opportunities. I attend networking opportunities and make connections. I get involved on campus. I take steps to further improve myself.
Recently I attended an NMC/GenZ trip for the first time. Due to personal commitments, I was only able to attend one day, but that day reminded me again that I cannot let myself be held back by my own fear. Touring around Kansas City, I was able to connect with peers from all around the nation and to connect with professionals who want to know more about me and my generation. I am not done growing by any metric, but the evidence of growth is so apparent. I made a change. I said yes to myself and to my future and no to fear.
I would not dare say that any of this makes me separate from my generation or better than them. Rather, I would say that this desire and willingness for change likens me to fellow GenZers. We are hungry to improve ourselves and our world. We are not perfect, but we do not shy away from admitting our faults and seeking to correct them.