Monday, May 12, 2014

Interact: Anger, Bitterness, & Success

Interact is a leadership and community service based club in high school that had a indescribable impact on my life. In Interact, I helped the community, built my leadership skills, and met some of the greatest people in the world through Interact. Aside from the position I once possessed, there is an unwritten side of my Interact adventure that I would like to share. This is my story.

In my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I was in Interact... but not really. I guess you can say I was "active" but that was just the club's requirements I managed to fulfill. I knew for sure that I wasn't truly "active." Many people admired my charismatic personality and encouraged me to apply for a leadership position. When I went in for the interview, I had the worst experience of my life.
They asked me questions about the organization and I had no knowledge what our district number was, what area my school was a part of, what our International project was, and many other basic information one needs to know before entering the interview. I was an active member in a club and district in which I knew nothing about except that we would use schoolloop to register and volunteer . You can probably guess by now that I didn't get accepted onto the Interact Board that year.
In my junior year of high school, my high school opened up new positions called Board Members in addition to the previous leadership roles. These Board Members would assist the Interact Officers in finding events for the members to volunteer. This time, I planned to apply and felt much more prepared. I believed in the organization and I believed in myself that I would be a great fit into growing the home club. Since getting on the team as a Board Member would be much easier than applying to be an officer, I came into the interview proud and confident. During the next meeting, they announced out loud all of the new board members that got accepted onto the team. I sat patiently in the bleachers, anxious for the results.
At the beginning of the meeting, the president called out a couple of names, names that were not Tam Pham, and ended it with...

"Last but not least, Tony Tran!"

I could remember that single moment when the selected board members stood up and were applauded by the rest of the club for their accomplishments. My heart ached because I felt that I had much more potential than most of the students that were selected. I clapped silently because rejection stung like a bee sting: painful but not permanent. I sat with my head down throughout the rest of the meeting, droning out the latest updates the officers were preaching, and replayed that single moment in my head. Tony Tran, Tony Tran, Tony Tran...

I envied the officers for not choosing me. I envied the new board members. A wild rush of emotions came upon me that spelled out anger and bitterness. A feeling of cynicism burned within my stomach because I began doubting my skills and abilities. I wasn't "good enough" for Interact, how could I be good for anything else? 
But I remained "active" in Interact and despite the rejection, I became a lot more involved. This reminds me of David Kang's favorite quote by Donald H. McGannon, "Leadership is action, not position." I knew I could continue to grow the organization and grow as an individual if I kept progressing with my work. I started going to more socials, more volunteer events, and continued meeting a handful of awesome people. I bonded with the current officers and board members after meetings and I was happy. After x amount of weeks, I finally felt happy.

One board member dropped out of Interact completely midway through the semester and the president reached out to me. She offered me a spot on the team and I accepted it. That 2nd half of the school year made me feel a lot more at ease. I was able to build stronger relationships and be more involved facilitating the Interact club.
In the summer transitioning into my final year of high school, my friend encouraged me to apply for District Council (Main representatives of Interact District 5170). I had no idea on what it was and during my interview, I still didn't really know what it was. All I knew was that this role was a major leadership position, it was with Interact (my favorite organization), this seemed challenging, and Digital Media was something I really enjoyed.

I applied on a whim. In fact, I submitted my email at 11:59PM the day right before it was due. My application turned out to be 10 pages long and in this highly competitive race for the positions, I earned myself an interview with the Governors in downtown San Jose.

Everything happened so fast.

During that summer, I was at San Diego for a week long Venturing Scout camping trip when I received the call. I was accepted to be on Interact District Council and I didn't believe what I just heard. I ran around screaming at the top of my lungs like a little kid playing tag because everything felt so unreal. I doubted myself consistently and I remember at our first District Council retreat where we all met the team for the first time, I was laying next to the governor and asked, "Why me?"

I finally started to believe in myself which was a problem that I have constantly struggled with throughout my life. My experience on District Council was phenomenal and my DC experience put the icing on the cake for my senior year.

For those reading until the end, I strongly encourage you to apply for these leadership roles and to believe in yourself. You never really know where life can take you.
I want to give a special thank you for everyone that affected my life, especially those I have met through Interact. You guys are awesome. 

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