The days leading up to Girls State filled me with excitement about what the week would bring. I walked into the dining center to register, ecstatic yet clueless about the trials I would face. Girls State is not easy. However, like everything in life, our hardships define and build us. Girls State is no exception.
I began my Girls State week by winning the office of my choice, Parish Communications Officer, and then winning Parish Party Chairwoman (PPC) for my parish party. That afternoon, we talked to various women who are leaders in their fields. One of the incredible women, Sarah Skinner, mentioned how important it would be this week to "thrive on the tops of the mountains when everything is amazing, but also keep that same attitude in the valleys." I had no idea how important this advice would be in the two coming days.
I entered my PPC position with the expectation that I would be supporting and cheering people on, helping them make signs, and speaking during the election. This was not the case. A large part of my responsibility was to wheel, deal, and trade votes to get my candidates to the next round of voting. The first day of the elections was one of the most challenging days of my life. It involved many people not keeping their word and a crushing amount of stress. I faced the conflict between being who I am and being who other people needed me to be. The extreme cognitive dissonance I experienced this day took a physical toll on my body. My stomach was upset all day, and I could barely eat. However, I knew that stopping was not an option because my position affected my entire parish. I respected them too much to go home, adding another layer of pressure. Getting through this day required me to build on my perseverance. The citizens, staff, and speakers of Girls State equipped me with encouragement and words of wisdom and inspired me to keep going.
According to Mary Anne Radmacher, "courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" My courage was quiet on Tuesday but was never snuffed out and did not go in vain. This week has trained me to immediately take my brain to the positives, which I learned from another Girls State speaker, Kizzy Smith. Even though Tuesday was extremely challenging, I chose to change my brain posture. Being surrounded by these amazing women speaking life's truths completely changed how I processed this experience. I can appreciate the sweet friends I treasure and hope to stay in touch with, a good night's sleep to reset and prepare me for the day ahead, and the hard work and support of others. All these things worked together to help me persevere even when I wanted to quit.
I find it very difficult to deal with the suspicion that others dislike me, making it hard to be the captain of my school danceline. I have to make many decisions that don't always please everyone. This week, having to deal with my actions affecting my entire parish party as PPC in a stressful situation has helped me in my struggle to strive for acceptance over productivity. Forcing myself through this challenge was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but I have grown so much through this week and do not regret anything about this experience. I will be a better captain and leader in my future efforts.
Tuesday was challenging, but now I feel capable of overcoming the stress of leadership and adulthood and thriving in places where not everyone is encouraging me all the time. I can now perform under pressure and stay organized even when my brain is overloaded. Even though I wasn't as successful at PPC as I had hoped, I had to force myself not to ponder my failures but to learn from them and apply what I learned in future situations. In the words of B.F. Skinner, "A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying." Though Girls State is definitely not easy, I will forever be thankful for the leadership skills it has taught me and the perseverance I have grown and will continue to grow for the rest of my life.