By Ji Soo Kim, '20
I believe in the power of believing in yourself. I have come to learn that high school is a time for exploration. It is the time and place where I have begun to understand who I am and who I want to become.
This past summer, I had the honor of representing Alabama at the National Student Leadership Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana where I was able to learn from nationally-recognized speakers and authors on how to grow as a leader and as a member of a community. Mr. Omari Pearson, a former NBA player and author, founded Passion To Purpose, LLC, a company geared towards equipping young people with the tools to achieve their goals. He led a session titled, “Brain Mapping: Goal Setting in the 21st Century.” I will never forget his mantra, “A dream without a plan is just a fantasy.” He told us to “dream so big that it scares you, and surround yourself with those who will tell you to get over your fear.”
We all fear failure, but the greatest growth and learning come from these times when we become the strongest versions of ourselves.
From ages eight to ten, I refused to participate in tournaments at my local tennis center. I was scared to compete. I was even more scared to face the possibility of failure. That decision stunted my growth. Fear delayed the positive results I wanted to see on the court. When I eventually started to compete in tournaments, however, I experienced the very failure that I was so scared of years before!
On the morning of my first tennis tournament, my mom and I pulled into the parking lot of the Huntsville Tennis Center. Even though I had been there countless of times before for lessons and clinics, the clubhouse and clay courts looked foreign to me. I surveyed the crowd of girls in the twelve and under age group: some lugged around tennis bags larger than themselves, while others, like me, had a racket in one hand and a water bottle in the other. Eventually, I was called onto a court to meet my opponent and begin match play. A tall, tan, twelve year old girl, whose bag was as large as I was, greeted me. I ended up losing 6-0,6-0. I didn’t win a single point. I cried in the car on the way home. The next six tournaments ended with similar results, and I cried after each one. Honestly, I wanted to stop playing; but my coach encouraged me to look at my failures as a prerequisite to success. I have been on the varsity tennis team since eighth grade, and I love the sport.
In July, I was chosen to participate in the first All-Star North-South Tennis Competition. I was paired up with Alyssa Vandiver from Deshler High School in doubles, and although having only met each other a day earlier, we communicated, shared the court, and moved like an experienced doubles team. In the end, we brought home a win for the North on day two, adding to our final team score of eight, and winning the competition! I know how daunting it can be. We all fear failure, but the greatest growth and learning come from these times when we become the strongest versions of ourselves. All we have to do is believe we can bounce back better than ever.
The support from my friends - both on the stage and off -helped me to overcome the obstacles in my head.
I also attended Alabama Governor’s School over the past summer. The two week residential honors program hosted by Samford University allows high school students to take classes taught by Samford professors in the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, and fine and performing arts. At the end of the two weeks, AGS hosts a talent show. My friends Michele, Kate, Julianna, and I impulsively decided to sign up, and together we wrote a song to perform. It took days of staying up late and coordinating free time in between classes, whether it was sneaking into Buchanan Hall to use a piano or sitting in the hallway outside our dorms after lights out.
On the night of the talent show, everyone rushed from dinner at the cafeteria to their dorms to change, then back to Brock Recital Hall across campus for the show. Soon enough it was our time on stage. Sarah Beth, the chosen emcee, introduced us to the audience. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. I was scared. I feared the judgement of my peers, disappointing my friends, and, once again, the possibility of failure. But we all stood up, locked eyes, and pushed ourselves to at least try. When the song ended, my ears started to pound as the rest of our AGS class cheered. My friends in the audience yelled our names as we linked hands and bowed. Sitting down in the safety and comfort of the crowd, Michele, Kate, Julianna, and I all looked at each other with triumphant smiles. The support from my friends - both on the stage and off - helped me to overcome the obstacles in my head. We could have easily backed out of the performance, but thanks to the strong connections we had with each other, and by believing in ourselves, we climbed the steps, walked to center stage, and sang our song. But in the end, we didn’t win. And that’s okay.