Stay quiet or be loud.
I was once taken to visit an old man, probably some distant relative I’ve never seen in my life. I vaguely remember the circumstances but the feeling I got from the visit is engraved in my memory. We were drinking tea; they were talking about life and society. I didn’t like the old man right away. His opinions were too categorical and he himself seemed like a very closed-minded person. Even more, like a cherry on top of the cake, he demonstrated that I was not welcome in the discussion. Not taking me seriously because of my age, gender, lack of experience, (insert your favorite stereotypical criteria).
Eventually he touched some topic where I couldn’t stay quiet any longer. I did not agree so much with that stereotypical approach; I felt the burning fire of anger inside me as my face color reached the soft shade of red. It was visible, I guess, so for the first time in the discussion he asked my opinion. I knew exactly what I wanted to say. The words were on the tip of my tongue. And what did I say instead? “I don’t know”. “Of course you don’t” I got as a reply.
In my culture diplomacy and discipline are really important, thus I was raised to always strictly follow the rules and obey. What I did not understand back then that my definition of diplomacy was more like avoiding conflicts and disagreements at any cost, and discipline like living according to the status quo.
It gradually led me to being afraid of everything new or different. New approaches, fresh opinions, different perspectives or even ways of life – change was for me an attempt to knock down the rules set by the society – the rules I grew up to obey. The rules that were so important to me. I was living in a bubble. Without noticing, I grew up as a closed, conformist person, trying to act according to the expectations set for me and not to stand out from the crowd.
Soon the vision of myself was stretching to fit in a common and ordinary scenario: school, university, marriage, children and probably an average job in an average company for the rest of my life. No high ambitions, no big dreams. Just following the standard. And that was when I got scared. Thus I was desperately trying to remember who I was before society told me who I should be.
The great leaders always fascinated me, and I always enjoy reading their stories from the pages of history. It didn’t take a long time for me to start noticing the same pattern in several young people I knew, they were doing incredible things.
Talking confidently on the stage to tens and hundreds of people, creating and implementing their own projects, leading their teams…
Looking at them, I felt impressed by the calm confidence in themselves and in what they were doing. For me they were like the rebels who continuously question the status quo and prove the system wrong – by bringing change to the world, taking action and doing more and better to become the best versions of themselves, leaving curious spectators like me with my jaw dropped.
The rules that were so important to me. I was living in a bubble. Without noticing, I grew up as a closed, conformist person, trying to act according to the expectations set for me and not to stand out from the crowd.
They seemed far away from being mediocre in my eyes. Being open minded, they not only embrace change but also create it. Breaking down the stereotypes, they are the young leaders who shape the world. They realize that their voice is significant enough and they are not afraid to be loud. Later on I got to know some of them – they are AIESECers. But I’m tired of the word “they”. WE ALL can make it if we choose to take action. We can change ourselves and just like those young pioneers make an impact.
Back then, sitting in front of that old man I was so sure of my ideas, but yet again got a proof of my own insignificance in this world that discouragement stroke me hard. I had to find a place to regain my confidence in who I am, who I want to become and what I can reach.
That place was AIESEC. A place to feel accepted, where you can learn how to accept those different from you, a place to become a leader and raise leaders like those I was and still am fascinated by. Those leaders seemed so distant back then and now I’m working to become one myself. Who would have thought? Moreover, I’m not alone, I have a community of like–minded peers, and we continuously grow together. Skills we learn, projects we implement, teams we lead – that is my new definition of incredible, and this time I can be a part of it.
Now I look back a year, two years ago and look how far I have come. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
See you at the top, my dear future leader. You know what to do.
Lithuania. August 2018
Julija Sesok: Ambitious dreamer, determined achiever. True AIESECer
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