My wish was to attend Northwestern University, but my Dad discouraged me from applying, as he did not want to see me rejected. To this day, I wonder if I would have been accepted and regret not going against his advice and taking a risk. He felt Penn State was a wonderful school that could offer me everything I wanted and more and so that is where I chose to reside. Despite all of my "leadership" experience, I was unable to take a stance and follow my own vision. Instead I concentrated on pleasing him and adopted the attitude that I would make Penn State a wonderful, memorable experience. My first inclination was to take time to look beyond my books, get involved, and make him and others proud of my proactive "success." Yet quite an evolution has occurred, as there have been a couple huge events and decisions that with acquired knowledge and maturity, provide a sharp contrast to these initials actions and have enabled me to actually begin leading my own life.
I began investing my time in Penn State Hillel, PSN-TV, THON, Tikkun Olam, and Centre County PAWS. While I established many friendships and was making wonderful memories through these organizations, I noticed that as my junior year approached, my enthusiasm and passion began to fade. Being a true leader was about more than possessing the titles of Vice President, Audio Manager, Event Coordinator, and Adoption Counselor. Certainly those labels sound great and provide a lot to boast about, but if they are not meaningful and igniting my soul, then I am doing an injustice to myself and all those involved. I have learned that being a leader means acknowledging the perceptions others have, but not working to simply appease and impress them.
With great fear and anxiety, the fall of my junior year, I grabbed the reigns and took lead of my own life. Although I held many reservations about disappointing my Dad and various organizations I was committed to, I took a stance and decided I needed to take a semester off and tend to my health. This decision conveyed enormous growth in my leadership skills because not only was I able to overcome disheartening thoughts of how others might perceive me, but in addition, I was able to ask for help, which is a critical ability for any leader to possess. I recognized that reaching out for assistance when feeling unequipped with the proper resources and abilities is purely a sign of strength.
I have ascertained that a great leader focuses not solely on the product, but equally values the process. They must rise above the paralyzing fear of failure and take risks. My decision to go away for a semester did not signify I had failed at handling certain issues on my own, but it conveyed maturity and ambition in that I was willing to do whatever it took to conquer them. This focus, determination, and faith helped me to jump from the darkness and know that I was going to land or learn to fly. Yet no matter the outcome, I would take it one day at a time and try my best to reap the benefits of the overall process. Upon my return to Penn State, I have continued to struggle immensely, but view the experience as invaluable. For every time one takes the lead, regardless of the outcome, useful knowledge and experience is acquired, which will impact future perspective, decisions, and interactions. That is what must be recognized and treasured.
After assessing my process and engaging in a great deal of introspection, I took lead of my life yet again this year. Despite opposition from my Dad, and the more subtle, but still lurking and uneasy feelings of failure, disappointment, and fear, I decided to return to my original plan of one major and one minor and to graduate on time, this Spring. As a rising leader, I was able to identify my strengths and weaknesses at this time in my life and tailor my course of action to best cater to the present circumstances. I have found that this flexibility and openness to adjusting for unexpected events and feelings is critical in leading effectively. It is not about what will look great or seem most impressive. Rather, a true leader focuses on what will be the best resolution and lead to greatest fulfillment and zeal for those involved, and develops a plan of attack around those ideals.
Now a senior, on the verge of breaking through the boundary lines and immersing myself into the real world, I am ready to do more than reflect on my leadership development. I want to put all I have learned into action! I am ready for change. I am ready for new and different challenges that will require me to ignite the skills I have developed that lay dormant, awaiting an opportunity to shine. As a busy student, I find myself stuck in the same sort of routine, day in and day out. This makes it difficult to appreciate all that I have become because in a way it feels underutilized and distant. I am so eager to employ and rediscover abilities and characteristics I possess through new environments, social interactions, and difficult endeavors. Only then will I be able to assess my development as a leader in its fullest, richest capacity.