For college students around the US, this is a busy week filled with exams, papers, and (for some) graduation plans, accompanied by a deep and persistent fear of the future. Wait – is that just me?
In a time that should be about closing off and finishing up, I find myself instead worrying about the future – about whether I’m well-equipped to deal with it. About if my winter break is actually better spent in Argentina. About if I made a bad decision to hand in my notice at my current job while still being only in the application phase of finding a future job.
So when I dutifully plodded to my local committee’s bi-weekly meeting, I wasn’t really thinking about the meeting – in fact, I had fully planned on using the time to continue sending my resume to job and internship offers open in the spring semester. It was, after all, the last meeting of the semester, and I had a good idea of what was going to happen: there would be, like usual, roll calls, followed by a progress report of where we are in terms of students sent abroad and students brought in, some sort of reflection-session on the past semester led by our President, Jon Haviv, and then end-of-year awards. Oh, and food.
I wasn’t disappointed – most of my expectations were fulfilled. There was food, there was a recap of positions on the national team that members could apply for, updates on national conferences and happenings, and then a reflection session. It came in two parts – firstly, had we personally achieved what we had set out to do for the semester. And secondly, a TEDx talk by Drew Dudley, “Leading with Lollipops.”
For all the Harry Potter fans out there, no, he’s not related to the Dudleys of 4 Privet Drive.
Also, I lied earlier – I was disappointed.
I had expected something different – if not stupendous, at least unexpected. Something that wasn’t LCM as usual. Instead, I was presented with a lackluster audience, a tired executive board, and a closing session that had been used before. This wasn’t the first time Drew Dudley had taken a starring role in our end-of-year meeting. So I settled in as usual, watched the same video, and listened to the same prompt, headed by the same emotional story about the importance of treasuring lollipop moments.
“Call, text, message – whatever you’re most comfortable with – but reach out to a person who’s helped you become a better person in the last three or four months, and tell them that you’re grateful.”
I was still applying to internships.
Still, the preternatural quiet that descended over the room was unavoidable, and with each passing moment, I found myself more drawn into it. I let my mind wander. Who had made an impact on me this semester? Who, if they were not in it, would have resulted in me being a different person than the person I am, right now? And who might need a pick-me-up – an acknowledgement that the world recognizes their contributions, and appreciates them for it? Despite myself, despite my nagging fear of the future, I followed that path, and I reflected on the past semester. I thought about the new friends I had made, the experiences I had gained, the risks I had taken and the people who had encouraged them. And I reached out to those people, to say hi. To say thanks. To let them know that I appreciated their role in the story of my life, and I would like that role to continue on. And walking out of that room, I added another item on my list to be grateful to: AIESEC.
Because without the space that the organization has forced us to provide, I would never have taken the moment, at that particular time, to reflect. Without AIESEC, we wouldn’t have a local committee meeting in the midst of exams and finals season. Without AIESEC, my local committee’s executive board would not have taken the time to prepare a session, because no doubt they too would have been thinking about their future – about their exams, about their jobs. And because AIESEC’s commitment to developing better leaders – to developing members no matter if it’s convenient means that I have taken the time to do something I didn’t even think about as important. And even though the video was one that had been played before, and even though I had already been through practically the exact same session, I still gained from it. It was still useful. And it isn’t the once in a lifetime opportunities, or the world changing ones that make up the bulk of AIESEC’s impact on the world. It’s the daily, weekly, or monthly meetings, the push to do better at every moment, that pushes us along as an organization. In the words of our national committee, it’s the hard and consistent work at every moment, but particularly at the hard times, that pushes the flywheel along and takes us all along for the ride.
Good luck to everyone during the finals, and thank you for reading. Drew Dudley’s video is below, and if this organization sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, please apply.