By Parris Lloyd
Five different people were calling my name. No, six people. Backstage, one of the singers was on the verge of a meltdown, screaming for the person in charge. The talent was getting restless. Onstage, a dance group was forgetting the choreography. Everything deteriorated from being completely organized to disastrous in what seemed like two seconds. I had 48 hours to pull together the 8th grade talent show alone; my partner quit in realizing the level of intensive work that the show required.
My class elected me to do this, so I couldn't abandon my responsibilities. With that in mind, I closed my eyes for a second and took control of the chaos. I re-organized the acts so that everyone would have enough time for costume changes. I helped the dancers with their choreography. I ran a CD on my laptop at practice instead of waiting for the tardy tech crew members. The day before the show, I called a meeting to bring everyone to the same page.
I did it without screaming a word. To my peers, I looked calm. Yet I felt completely drained, and insanely proud in the end. The show did go on flawlessly to loud applause at its conclusion.
It was the start of my reputation in my school as a leader who is calm and who gets things done, no matter what the circumstance. I was elected president of my class as a sophomore and chosen to coordinate fundraising among 16 sister schools to provide clean water for African villages. Given my record, I was considered the frontrunner in the election for president of my senior class. I envisioned the position as climatic of my high school experiences in leadership. I had compiled a list of plans for the class. However, the campaign turned into my first major failure. I lost the election.
For days after the defeat, I thought about the campaign. New teachers had created new regulations forcing students to get faculty approval for their speeches. "No promises" was the new rule and the faculty censors edited the life out of my speech. Through any failure, it is important to explore what could have prevented the loss. In doing so, I imagined myself fighting the censorship with the calm, signature style of my leadership that I displayed in pulling the talent show together. I could have gone to the administration to fight for my speech, explaining why such censorship compromises elections. Perhaps, I could have been more creative in finding alternate ways to make my ideas shine through my speech, instead of focusing on what we were no longer allowed to say. Most importantly, I could have found alternative outlets to show my classmates why they should elect me.
Rather than sob over the defeat, I know there will be more opportunities for me to employ the lessons from this loss. I also realized being a leader is more than winning an election or holding a title. My loss doesn't ban me from having an impact on my class or engaging my leadership skills in other causes. My failure gave me the chance to step up in other extracurricular activities. For years, I have been involved in the Breast Cancer Awareness Club at my school. I became President of the Club this year. I still continue as a member of Student Council and I joined its Transfer Student Welcoming Committee and the Senior Class Gift Committee in hopes to leave a lasting impact on my school after I graduate. I know I will experience other failures throughout my life. Fortunately I will always have a strong model of how to guide myself to new successes after any failure.
Parris Lloyd, a freshman at George Washington University, is a 2014 graduate of the Ursuline School in Westchester County.