When the Bitter Things Taste the Sweetest

It was last year in January. I was just inducted into my community college’s honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. This was a goal I had been chasing down throughout high school and I finally made it. The first activity I could participate with them in was the New York Regional Convention, where Phi Theta Kappa chapters from all over New York come together for a weekend. It was nerve-racking, because at this point in my life I had purposely isolated myself.

I was hurt and misunderstood in high school so when I graduated I purposely hid myself from the world so I would never get hurt again. I really only had one friend. I was anxiety-ridden to think of spending a weekend with a bunch of strangers, but I also felt that this was my only means of escape from the chains I kept around myself.

With encouragement from my family and best friend, I took a deep breath and stepped foot on that bus. I spent most of the ride with my headphones in my ears and a book to my face. I was so used to looking at the walls of my bedroom, this was odd and felt uncomfortable. When we arrived to our hotel I was placed in a room with two girls I didn’t know. They were nice enough but I felt as though I was super awkward with my caution when speaking with them. It wasn’t until I made friends with the boys on this trip that I loosened up a little bit. I tended to get along with boys a little bit better.

The convention was enjoyable. It was extremely out of my element but this crowd had a different energy. Everyone was excited to learn and faced some of the anxiety I was currently facing most of their lives. We were all nerds and were a bit different. But to have those qualities here, it was valued. At the first dinner an older gentleman came up to me. I noticed he was the one occasionally speaking at the podium with six other students, they were the New York Regional officers and this guy must have been their mentor. His name was Dr. Alex.

“Would you be interested in running for office?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” I asked in shock.

“What chapter are you from?”

“Um… Lambda Beta.”

“You could run for Northern Vice President. How does that sound?”

I paused, trying to absorb all of this.

“Listen, I just joined this thing this semester. I don’t know anything about this organization, I don’t believe I’m eligible,” I explained.

“That’s okay. All you need to do is write a two minute speech and present it tomorrow night. No one will be running against you. We don’t have anyone running actually. It would be an honor to have you at least try…. think about it.”

I nodded my head and he walked away. Run for Northern Vice President? I have barley spoken to a handful of friends rather 200 people. This was impossible.

ElizabethB_PTK2

It was at that moment our key speaker came to present. His name was Jon Vroman, founder of the Front Row Foundation. He asked the crowd if they had a good joke to share. I surprisingly found myself raising my hand. I then heard Jon pronounce the color of my shirt and ask for me to come up to the podium. I stood up with shaky breath, shook his hand and held the microphone. At first I choked from all the staring eyes but then realized, I was joking with these people the whole day and they actually found me to be funny. I relaxed at this thought and told my joke. The crowd laughed and Jon asked them to clap their hands twice and shout, “YOU ROCK!” The volume of feedback was incredible…I almost wanted to cry. Jon then gave me a free book for participating.

At the end of Jon’s speech he told us something so incredible for me to hear at that moment. He said, “Some of the most bitter tasting things in life are the best for us.” Every aspect of this trip tasted bitter but in all honesty, what was once bitter now tasted so sweet. I went to meet Jon afterward and asked him to sign my new book. I told him the situation I was facing. He nodded the whole way through as he wrote in my book. He closed the book, handed it to me and said, “Go for it.” I smiled and walked away. In the book it read; Liz, you are a born leader! – Jon Vroman. I jumped up and down with excitement and ran to Dr. Alex. I asked him 20 questions about running for office. Feeling prepared I ran to my room and wrote my speech.

The next night I dressed up nice, walked up that podium, looked at the crowd who I now saw as friends rather than strangers and said, “It’s not a joke this time…” and went on with my speech. The last thing I said was, “As an art student I’d like to give you an image. Think of a box. There are people in front pulling this box forward. There is a man on top of that box directing the people below on what to do. Now imagine that same box with the same people pulling it forward. But this time, the man who was once on top is now down below with the others in front of the line directing them on what to do as he does it with them. That is the kind of leader I will be.”

The next morning I was sworn in as Northern Vice President of the New York Region. I was introduced to my new Regional Team who would soon become some of the best friends I could have asked for and I started my new chapter in life.

This past year has changed me. I traveled to so many places, such as; Orlando Florida, St. Louis Missouri, Corning, New York, Manhattan New York, and soon I’m off to San Antonio, Texas. I met beautiful people, I changed lives and others changed my life. I had experiences I would have never been able to have if I never left my bedroom. I have now passed on my position to another as it is the end of my term, but thanks to the bitter things in life, I have been able to live the sweetest life. Life is a buffet. Try everything! If you don’t like it, spit it out. If you do, take seconds.

ElizabethB_headshotElizabeth was a Graphic Design Student and is now a Media Studies student, soon to be for NYU. Elizabeth’s main goal when attending community college was to earn her status on the honor’s list, as she never got to do so in high school. Throughout her journey earning that status she got incredibly involved with her college and found great passion in the academic setting. She has always wanted to make some sort of change in the world. She is now striving to someday host her own talk show where she can cover the topics she is passionate about and wants to see change in, such as; academics, starving artists, feminism, and the LGBT community.

Elizabeth has made many accomplishments in her last two years at community college such as; serving as Northern Vice President of the NY Region of Phi Theta Kappa for two years, participating and leading in many volunteer activities, speaking for her school many times at open houses, opening up her own business as a Digital Presence Coordinator, working in two job position with her school as a Student Orientation Leader and a Strengths Quest Ambassador, participating in an internship with the Marketing and Communications department at her school, and most recently receiving the Chancellor’s Award of Student Excellence.

Elizabeth is aware of one of her strengths as an achiever and plans to always put her full energy into whatever it is she wants to accomplish.