As I browse the documents stored on my laptop, I find a lot of little gems, including this essay from 2014. It is a reflection of my experience attending the 2014 Student Leadership Forum in Indianapolis. Reading it now reminds me how hard I worked through college. While my college experience may have been the hardest 3.5 years of my life, I realize it shaped me into I am today and was maybe the most rewarding period of my life. My essay is reproduced below:
“I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2014 Beta Gamma Sigma Student Leadership Forum held in Indianapolis, IN from November 6-9. Each day was filled with unforgettable activities including presentations by notable guest speakers, engaging leadership activities, and networking opportunities.
On the morning of November 6, 2014 I was able to explore downtown Indianapolis. After eating breakfast in the exclusive concierge level lounge, which the front desk person so kindly gave me access to, I left the hotel. I stopped by the Indianapolis State Capitol Building, visited the mall, attended Mass at St. John of Indy Catholic Church, walked through the convention center, and bought souvenirs. After exploring the city, I returned to the hotel to get ready for the opening session, which began at 6:00 p.m.
After registering for the conference, I was ushered into a beautiful dining room, where I was served a buffet-style Italian dinner. Round tables were set up around the room for attendees to sit at. Everyone that sat at my table was so kind, and I made friends instantly! After dinner, everyone was welcomed and we played a networking game. Each student was given a card with sections stating one interesting fact about each member (we had to submit facts about ourselves before the conference). We were then told to walk around the room and introduce ourselves to others. For every person we met, we had to ask what their interesting fact was, and share our own. My interesting fact was that I have my own personal blog, http://www.TeawithV.com. The students whom I met were very interested in it, and one student promoted me to all of her friends via Facebook.
After the game, we listened to a talk by the notable, Tim Clipson. He was a former sailor that now devotes his life to inspirational speaking. As he explained his life from a spiritual perspective, chills ran down my spine. I knew that this was going to be a great weekend and that all who were in attendance would benefit greatly from it. Clipson broke us off into pairs and we were given ropes. He then proceeded to give us directions on what to do with our ropes. Before we knew it, my partner and I were roped together. Next, he told us to try and untangle ourselves. After struggling for about five minutes, we were on the verge of giving up. Clipson handed us a paper with directions on how to untangle ourselves. We were told that this was the only way that would work, and after a few attempts, we believed it: we untangled ourselves! The moral of the exercise was that sometimes we may feel entangled by the constraints our world places upon us. However, we must not lose hope! There is always a way to fix what has been holding us back in our lives. However, it might take a little work and help from others.
After untangling ourselves, Clipson held up a vase. In the vase were flowers. He told us to describe the flowers. Some students described them as colorful, unique, bright, etc. Then Clipson did something no one in the room expected. He dumped the flowers out and quickly smacked the vase across his head! It became a hat. Everyone laughed as we realized that the vase was made from a soft material, and could be transformed into any shape. Then he explained to us that although things may appear to be one way, our eyes can often deceive us. We must remember that things are not always as they appear. The same goes for relationships; often we cast preconceived judgments on others because of the way he or she appears or presents him or herself. However, those judgments can, in fact, be wrong, and we must be open for change and transformation.
Feeling renewed and inspired, I returned to my hotel room to get a good night’s rest. I could not wait for the next day to arrive. Soon enough it did, and I was down eating breakfast with my friends around 8:00 a.m. It was now Friday, November 7, 2014. On this day, my friends and I had the opportunity to listen to the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and take a tour of the track. We were shown the brick finish line and told a story about how one winner, after struggling to make it to the finish line, bent down and kissed the bricks! I thought it would be fun to imitate this, so I asked my friends to take a picture of me “kissing the bricks.” We also got to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and take a picture in an Indy car. After a day of fun, we ate dinner at a country-club style restaurant. Again this was a great chance to network with the individuals from business schools from all over the world.
On Saturday, November 8, 2014 we were split off into groups based on our results to a personality test. Alyssa Preston, founder and architect for SAGE, LLC, spoke to us about her experiences as a “not so bright,” but hardworking student. She explained how she got to where she was, despite failed relationships and personal struggles. Overall, her story was very inspiring. She also showed a clip from the movie, Evan Almighty. In the clip, the Bible verse, Genesis 6:14 kept coming up in Evan Baxter’s life, to the point that it was almost inevitable! Baxter understood that God was calling him to do something, and realized that it was to build an arc. Although our Genesis 6:14 moments may not be as drastic as that, Preston prompted us to recognize these moments.
What we did next, I will never forget. It was in fact, for me, a Genesis 6:14 moment. Each student was given a large piece of poster paper and a pack of crayons. We were given instructions to put in picture what we feel is causing us grief, or to create a picture perfect future on this piece of paper. I took the assignment from a hopeful approach and drew a road leading to my Tea Room restaurant, Tea with V. Along the road I drew myself and my significant other with a heart. My significant other, I imagined, just got out of work, and decided to stop by to surprise me with flowers at my Tea Room. In the background, I drew our simple, loving home with a cross in the sky to represent God watching out for us. As I explained my picture to my peers, I thought it was funny because all of the guys, including the boy who was sitting next to me named Anthony, responded with a smile and, “Awwww!”
Next we were told to think about who, if we could, we would like to talk to at that very moment. It could be a living person or someone who had passed away. After choosing someone, we were told to find a quiet area to explain why we chose that person and construct the conversation we would have with them. Sitting next to the boy named Anthony reminded me of my favorite saint, St. Anthony of Pauda. I realized that if I could talk to anyone at that very moment, it would be St. Anthony.
What happened then, I truly believe was God’s working. Before I began writing out my explanation and conversation, I visited the restroom. As I was washing my hands, my phone began to ring. It was a number I did not recognize. When I answered the phone, I asked politely, “who is this?” and heard the voice on the other line answer, “this is Anthony.” Right at that very moment, I realized who I was speaking to: a very nice individual I had met over the summer and exchanged numbers with. He was a visiting seminarian from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. This was the first I had talked to him since the summer. He told me that it was his day off and he had just called to see how I was doing. Because most of his family is living in Africa, he enjoys keeping in touch with the friends he meets in America. He asked how I was doing and I explained why I was in Indianapolis. We also talked about Thanksgiving, and overall, had a relaxed, genuine conversation. As our conversation ended and I hung up the phone, I was hit with a divine realization. For a while I had been considering entering the religious life, as a devoted sister of the Church. However, in my heart, I knew that I wanted to find someone who I could not see myself living without: someone I could love and start a family with. It took a simple conversation with a seminarian to realize that I could still live a devout Catholic life as a married person. Previously, I thought that to stay grounded, I had to turn to a religious vocation. But, in the case of Anthony, it was someone with a religious vocation turning to me. He was sincerely interested in how my life was going. Even though I thought what I was doing was insignificant when compared to a religious vocation, my friend was interested in hearing about the everyday things I was up to. I truly believe God works in mysterious ways and this was his way of telling me that the sacrament of marriage is just as sacred as a religious vocation. We are all given certain gifts and abilities and I realized mine is to be a good friend to others and serve Christ as a lay person of the Church.
Returning to my table, I noticed that the “Anthony” I was sitting next to was gone. I am not sure where he went, but I thought it was ironic that he was there at the right place at the right time to spark the thought of St. Anthony in my mind.
That evening, after dinner, we were given a night off. I went to see a Pacer’s game with my friends and had a great time!
On the last day of the conference, we wrote thank you letters to our sponsors and said goodbye to all of our friends. The final session ended at 12:00 p.m. After it was over, I visited the Indianapolis War Museum and watched an Irish step dance performance at the local theatre. I ate dinner at California Pizza and attended Mass at St. John of Indy Church. Later in the evening I returned to the hotel, got a snack at the concierge lounge, and packed up my things for my flight the next day.
On my flight home, I had the chance to reflect upon all of the happenings of the trip. I realized how blessed I am and thankful to be attending Bloomsburg University. Although the going can get tough at times, I must not lose hope and remember to trust in God. After all, He is the one who can untangle my “knots,” and lead me to success and happiness.”