I never once thought about leaving a legacy. I never even thought about leading someone or something or a group. Then I went to a conference on a cloudy Saturday for a story I was writing for my college newspaper.
I have a leadership role at work and I never thoguth once about how it might affect me later in life.
I work at a movie theater. It’s not as fun as it seems. It involves long and late nights, long and early mornings and customers talking back to you (but you can’t talk back to them). When I first started, I was absolutely horrible at it. Messing up, my drawers were always too short or over. It was my first job and I didn’t know how long I’d last.
Fast forward a year, I’m in my first semester of college working three different areas at work: concessions, ushing and box office. We were in desperate need of “supervisors,” employees in charge of a specific position, mostly used in the concessions stand and ushing.
I didn’t want to become a supervisor specifically because I didn’t want to deal with all of that responsibility that came with it. I wasn’t one to yell at people or order them around to do their job. And then one day the schedule comes out, I’m an automatic supervisor without talking to the managers and without the managers talking to me.
Fast forward two more years and the place goes downhill when I’m gone for a week in the summer: No one takes charge of the concessions stand. Managers need to close. Basically, they’re without one of their best shift leads: me.
I never really thought about taking on the shift lead role. To me, it’s just a position. It’s work to me. I go to work, I do my job, I tell employees what to do, I tell managers if an employee isn’t doing something right, I stay as late as 2:00 a.m. I always ask the question, “Why me?” What makes me so special? Why am I always the one managers depend on? Why did I become a supervisor without doing anything while other coworkers constantly ask managers if they can become one?
One Saturday Spent trying to find content for my article changed my life.
Fast forward to the present—or at least, recently. Writing for my college’s newspaper, I get assigned a story every week. It’s always different. I never know what it’s going to be. One Wednesday night, I finally get the email from the editor. My story was about International Women’s Day. Events happened all around campus, including a conference.
Come that Saturday, I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m glad I went.
This conference, appropriately named the Titan LeadHERship Conference (Titans are our mascot, the campus is celebrating Women’s HERstory Month), took place almost all day on Saturday. Nearly a hundred women, students and faculty registered. Along with a keynote speaker, the conference also planned three different breakout sessions talking about how to become a leadHER, advocating for yourself and others, career readiness, networking, oppression, privilege and personal brand. It was a day to help women become leaders.
It made me think about who I want to become and what I want to become. All of these women came for the same reason: They want to be leaders. They want to close the gender gap. Seeing all of those women, they’re all different but they share a goal.
I felt out of place when I first got there. Everyone wore casual business attire, I wore a nice shirt, jeans and sneakers because I don’t own any business wear. Everyone had similar majors or professions. I was the lone journalism major. Everyone knew why they were there and how it was going to change them. I just needed to get some material for a story.
Then I realized that none of that mattered. I ended up making friends. Some of them had gone to the conference before, for others, it was their first time like me. I didn’t know what I was going to leave knowing and what I was going to take away from it. I felt like it was one of those things where you either have it or you don’t. You have the strength or you don’t. You have leadership or you don’t.
What is my purpose?
I kept asking myself that all day. I’ve been asking myself my entire life. At the conference, I realized that my purpose was to be me and to lead my life the way I want. Not to let anyone stand in my way. You’re told “you can’t do this”, “you can’t do that,” “only guys can do this,” “only girls can do that.” They’re wrong.
This whole conference I attended wanted to help break the barriers between men and women and close the gender gap. If it wasn’t for this conference, I would still question why I made decisions. What’s in it for me?
I didn’t know if I was even fit to be a leader. The thought never once crossed my mind. I like to take charge every once in a while, but I still feel weird about it. But that’s not all what being a leader, or leadHER, is about. It’s about being inspiring and being inspired, creating your own legacy, helping others and striving for greatness. It’s different for everyone.
That weekend, learning more about sisterhood and breaking barriers inspires me to think about the future more now than ever. It makes me want to become a better person and try to advocate more for others.
Why are we put on this Earth if we aren’t going to do some good?