My heels clicked on the floor as I approached the doors to my first DECA competition. Immediately, I was welcomed by the conversations of hundreds of students and judges attempting to converse with groups around them. I struggled to grasp even the simplest phrases from my competitors. The smallest words such as ‘prepared’ and ‘practice’ stuck with me, consuming my thoughts and threatening my excitement with nerves. As I ventured further into the storm of suits and dresses, the confidence from my competition bounced right off of me. My chest tightened with each breath, as my anxiety slowly started to form.
When our competition was announced, my partner and I walked down the elongated hallway and into a cavernous room with white fold up tables and folders layed out. As we prepped for our role-play in front of the judge, I felt the same nerves as I felt in eighth grade, standing in front of my class trembling. I had fumbled over my words helplessly attempting to talk about Asthma. The more I attempted to recover my words the clumsier they got, until finally I choked out my last few and quickly ran to my desk to shut everyone out. The world spiraled around me, my heart sped up, and my breathing became uncontrollable, this was the first introduction to my anxiety. As I sat down in front of the judge, I had that same anxiety, but something was different, I knew how to control it. After taking a couple deep breaths, I launched into our key points.
I left the judging room with more nausea and pride then I knew was possible. We walked back into the bustling room to prepare ourselves for the awards. My partner and I agreed a miracle would be needed for us to place, yet we let a small spark of hope keep us on the edge of our seats. When we were called up for third place, we had the sensation of pure astonishment and enthusiasm.
Knowing how much time I had spent preparing myself to take control of my stress and finding a way to manage my anxiety was, and still is a challenge that I am learning to deal with. Taking that step to try something completely foreign was difficult, but the one thing the experience taught me was how I can put my anxiety to the side and focus on how to improve.
High school is a time when most students broaden their interests by signing up for a variety of different clubs and classes that are unfamiliar. For me, high school was a time to maintain in a comfortable zone. DECA was my first step out of the mindset that I had to keep to myself, this new opportunity made me realize that I didn’t need to maintain an environment that was well-known to me. By breaking from this, I have been exposed to a numerous amount of opportunities, all of which have challenged me. My potential is yet to be met, and I have the chance to continue improving upon not letting my words just clumsily slip out.