Krista Ryanne O. Palabrica, Member of Interact Club of Cagayan de Oro Premier
[Note from the editor: This letter was submitted to RI’s 2020 Interact Award and has been published with permission from the author.]
I am not leader material. This was my immediate thought when our first ever Leadership Training Program – unofficially named The Amazing Race of the Interact Club of Cagayan De Oro Premier – was announced back in 2017. See, I was a recluse. While I was already in my second year as a member, I still struggled to open up to others. I wasn’t confident that people would understand my awkwardness and lack of social skills. I didn’t see myself as anything but a planner—a project brainstorming machine. I was constantly wary of others and found myself asking, “Why should I learn to be a leader?”
To be honest, I do not recall much of what happened at my first Leadership Training Program. I remember being generally pessimistic as I was grouped with students that I was not really close due to our age differences. I remember feeling hopeless as we placed last in the preliminary games of the training. But there was one moment in the actual race that completely redefined the experience for me.
The test that impacted me the most was a “Brawn Challenge” where each of us had to stand at a fixed position on the arc and shoot a basketball through the basketball hoop. We had to shoot one person at a time and each person had to make the shot or the whole group starts over. It sounds simple enough. It should have been. Except, I am not the most athletic student. My group was actually doing really well until the ball was passed to me. Each time it was my turn to shoot the ball, it would fall short. Literally. No matter how many shots I took, my jumps were not enough for me to take the goal. Time was running out. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated and angry about how weak I was compared to the others.
Minutes started to pass and even more shame clouded me. I was so sure that I would receive looks of impatience and annoyance from my teammates. I did not. I did not see a single look of disappointment. What I got instead were looks of genuine encouragement: slight nods, cheers and pats that were only ever addressed to me in a reassuring way. They huddled together and told me that they would rather see me finally score a ball than skip to the next challenge. It was at that moment that a wave of gratefulness washed over me. I felt motivated to not just accomplish the task for myself, but to go beyond that and gain something greater which, at that moment, was the happiness of my teammates. Within three more tries, I managed to make the shot. Not once, but twice. It was like a movie scene. Our moderators cheered and congratulated us for such a simple achievement. In spite of all the hardship, the short epiphany I got was definitely the greater win.
It wasn’t just me though. We all changed in a way. It was as if every one of us knew to step in when things became difficult. I like to think that the short delay further strengthened us as a group and made us closer. We all collectively agreed that while winning was the goal, honing our teamwork and getting to know each other mattered more. Of course, there were even more trials that challenged our resilience and intellect. As we progressed, I found comfort in knowing that I was with people I trusted. When one of us failed, we picked each other up and did the task together. This went on until our last exercise where we had to cross the entire covered court using only tires and wood.
It was over sooner than I anticipated and to my surprise, we won. As prizes, our advisors gifted us with pizza, cola, and a banner that we continue to use at club meetings to this day. The sunset washed over the covered court like a final gift to our fruitful day. As I went over what had happened, I knew somehow that I had changed and that the experience didn’t turn out to be as bad as I expected. I had a group of new friends who made me happy. Suddenly, it came to me that if I tried to be more open, then maybe I could have more moments like this. I left that day with a new outlook on what it meant to be a leader. I remembered that I was unsure of how to go about it, but I was determined to change for the better.
My first Leadership Training Program was a wakeup call for me to take responsibility in helping others. I was selfishly holding myself back because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough. At the end of the day, it made me see the true essence in becoming a true Interactor. The truth was that there wasn’t anything wrong with me except how I depreciated myself. The training really made me see that I needed to stop turning away from the people that care about me and develop a genuine camaraderie with them. It taught me to be more confident in myself and to rise to the occasion. I’m forever grateful for that special day because without it, I would never have gotten the courage to form the valuable friendships I have.
Years later, I have come to the conclusion that now more than ever, the world needs leaders. In a time that is filled with not just uncertainty but insecurity as well, we must look into ourselves and motivate each other to get through our trials. I’ve realized that in a way, we are all leaders who just need to see what we are capable of. Our problem is that we put ourselves into boxes and stick to what we’re used to. However, we need to take opportunities when they come to us. It isn’t fair for us to just doubt ourselves without taking chances. We don’t exactly have to be heroic leaders of legend, but we can be the ones that our own world needs.
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