By: Emily B.  

“I don’t think I’ll be voted as vice president next year.” 
Those few words have constantly echoed in my mind ever since I was passed over for the Vice President position of the National Thespian Honor Society. Disappointment in not being elected consumed me and I grasped for advice from my mentorI wanted him to tell me “People will see how much talent and potential you have, and there is no way that you won’t receive the position!” But he didn’t. 
“To be completely honest,” he said, “there is something really messed up if that’s what you care about.”  
My feelings of rejection and powerlessness soon morphed into a kind of displacement mechanism; the stages of grief are a hell of a drug. His bluntness was infuriating and I definitely did not hear whatever constructive criticism he gave me int the few minutes after his statement. He wasn’t wrong, but just like A Few Good Men had warned me, I couldn’t handle the truth. 
For the larger portion of my life, I had fallen into this cycle of seeing a leadership position, working towards it and achieving it -- the title. My competitive high school conditioned me into thinking that to have any worth, I had to accomplish extraordinary things and have a certificate to prove it. The gears in my manufactured consciousness only moved because the mindset of my peers had conditioned them? Now, my mechanical parts came to a halting stop and I was met with an adversity that wasn’t a part of the curriculum. Without the title, how could I lead?  
I wish I could say that, after I spoke to my mentor, my life was changed forever, that I opened a non-profit and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show but I’m a human and humans take time to process their emotions. Boy, did I do some processing! There was this gut-wrenching sense of inadequacy and the inevitability of not being in charge that prompted fear but also a feeling of change. These feelings could have been the combination of time and introspection or possibly watching the people around me moving forward in life as I was “trapped” on an unmoving escalator; either way, I found myself rejecting my habituated mentality and accepting an unfamiliar concept. 
I discovered that it’s not the attainment of a position that makes someone a leader but the desire to influence people in a constructive capacity. I am not a leader because I have a badge or document that certifies me as a leader. 
I am a leader because I want to make positive impacts on the world, and I have the initiative to do so. And maybe this year I’ll have to follow the rules of someone else, and maybe next year I will still be a team player. That’s okI’ll lead as a follower for now and what people call me won’t define who I am.  
I still think back to that conversation I had with my mentor. I’ve started to remember some of the other things he told me. “I know that the struggle is hard, but it’s your struggle; it’s personal to you.” 
My personal struggle has shaped my sense of reality, impacting the choices I make every day, choices such as running for a state thespian officer position and organizing a car wash. The plasticity of my attitude towards life has made me a stronger person. I’ve accomplished more in the last two years than I did in 15 and I don’t even have a shiny badge with a title. 

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