2016 has been a year of growth for me. I started out 2016 by getting caught up in politics and other things and losing sight of who I was. I ended 2016 with a case of impetigo… but a renewed sense of self and a closer relationship with God.
January-May: During this time, I was involved in an organization on campus as an executive officer. I was Director of Operations, the second to hold the title. The first one asked me to take on this position because she believed I could take it to a new level and expand on it. And I did. I turned it into a strategic role and looked for ways to improve the club. Some of my accomplishments include creating a new look for the website, creating the first every buddy system which included socials, and creating guides to help new members better navigate. My formal responsibilities were to distribute certain documentation internally and also oversee several committees. I was also running for president during this time.
The biggest lesson I learned, hands-down, was having empathy. This semester helped me grow tremendously in terms of emotional intelligence.
When one of my board members needed more help with being reminded about her responsibilities, I got upset. However, I was the one who advocated for her during deliberations so she could become a board member. I wanted to mentor and nurture her. If I had empathy, I would have realized that she was a freshman and freshman usually have a lot to balance on top of being a board member. Most of our board members aren’t freshman, so it wasn’t a good decision to invite her to be one. If I had had empathy, I would have known that and read the situation much, much better… and avoided a lot of stress.
Emotional intelligence also includes self-regulation. I did not know how insecure I really felt. Because I didn’t know I was insecure, I falsely believed that I was confident. My insecurity showed through a lot of mistakes such as taking myself too seriously and getting easily offended. Getting easily offended while you’re in the spotlight is never a good thing, because word gets around quick. I learned that the hard way.
I lost my bid for being president of the club because while I did a good job of gaining loyalty from the share of people I had , I did not have enough empathy to realize how I made others feel. This was the semester when I finally, finally realized I need to constantly and consciously put myself in people’s shoes. Prior to that, I would barrel through life like a bull in a china-shop. I would live my life the way that I wanted to, no holds barred and no opinions considered.
Empathy involves considering what other people think and how they feel. It’s called the Golden Rule. It’s something kids learn at a young age from cartoons. Do unto others as you want someone to do unto you. For some reason, that wasn’t clicking to me. Living life just being Ophie and doing me regardless of what people thought was just the way I functioned.
So one way that put me at a disadvantage was in that I communicated a message I, and my supporters, thought were good… but others didn’t have the same perception.
I read an article in Harvard Business Review yesterday about something called ‘progress fluency‘. It is what consumers gain the more they use a product and become familiar with it. For instance, after I got my first IPhone in 2012, I’ve been purchasing more Apple products ever since because I know what to expect. Thus, if I switch to Samsung, it’ll be more of a conscious process and therefore harder to do. Simply put, consumers are more comfortable with products they are familiar with and make it a habit to continue buying the same brand. If something changes in that brand, even something like the colors, it’s likely that some consumers will be upset and maybe even switch.
In the same way, in my speech, I was promoting a message of change and newness. I didn’t realize that members didn’t want newness. My speech made it seem to some members like I was going to change everything. Instead, I wanted to improve things in smaller, more subtle ways. However, that was not the perception that I gave and so, I’m sure that’s a big part of why I lost.
And perception meant everything.
While losing elections wasn’t fun, it taught me some very, very valuable lessons that I will apply to the future. The biggest of which centers around emotional intelligence, which is what I believe God wanted to develop in me… and develop it, He did.
I also had a case competition presentation the day after elections, and that competition would feature a panel of accounting faculty and accounting professionals including a director from a Big 4 firm.
So only three hours after losing elections, I practiced with my team for the case competition the next day. Red-eyed and tired, I tried my hardest not to let losing get to me. I was the one who was giving people tasks, keeping people motivated and doing a large share of the work so people were depending on me. As much as I tried to keep my head up, I did cry a few times.
So I’d be saying, “And our conclusion was….” then I’d stop and start crying. Dabbing away at my eyes, I’d apologize profusely (why is my writing so formal today? o.O). With my teammates quietly looking at me, I broke down and cried.
Then my other teammates started crying with me. Soon enough, we were running out of tissues pretty quickly.
At the actual competition, we were the only team dressed all in black. The competition was about financial instruments in the form of hybrid shares or blah blah blah. Something like that, hahah.
A lot of teams applied for the competition, which centered around an accounting problem we had to write a memo about. Only four teams were selected to present. My team had agreed that I would be the one to write the memo, but they would research it. In the end, it ended up being that there wasn’t enough research done for the memo to even be two pages long (and the number of pages required was six).
So there I was, only two days before the deadline of the memo, staring at a scarce Google Doc that looked as full as a contestant from America’s Next Top Model. It was 11pm and I had just finished studying. I refilled my tea and got the memo done in about two hours. As complicated as hybrid financial instruments sound, it’s actually pretty intuitive.
When I went to submit the memo, I bumped into a friend who said that her team had spent six hours in the library every week working on the memo. So I really thought we wouldn’t get chosen.
When we got chosen, we were all surprised and my teammates promised to do better. So that was where we were at when we met up to practice. I admit that I was a little sharp with my teammates and a little angry still about what happened. But when they cried with me, that anger melted away – just a little :-).
We practiced the best that we could. Out of all the teams that presented that day, we were the most tired and angry-looking. To make things even more ironic, we were the only team dressed in all black.
When my part came up in the presentation, I smiled brightly and said, “Now I will be talking about [topic here].” I saw the judges sit up and smile, looking a bit more interested. Then my confidence deflated and my voice was smaller than I had ever heard it during a presentation.
None of us did really well, so I didn’t think we would place in the top three. Still, I felt like God was putting it on my heart that we would place. It was a very strong feeling that contrasted how ‘meh’ we had done and the mutual, all-around-the-table agreement that we were surely going to be last and not get a prize. So I didn’t tell my teammates.
After the presentation, we sat in the school lobby and in a circle, spoke about what each of us could have done better. I also learned something valuable that day, which is that I’m only as good as my team. It doesn’t matter how awesome I do if the rest of my team needs help and isn’t getting it.
In the end, we did place. We placed third, but we placed. Apparently, while none of the teams had gotten the answer totally correct, our answer was the closest.
One day, I’ll be able to fully understand and appreciate what God was trying to teach me in that moment.
June-July: During this time, I was completing my internship with a big 4 accounting firm. I was chilling out more by now and things were getting back to normal. Now that I was out of the spotlight, I was starting to feel like myself again. I still didn’t realize that I carried a heavy stone in my shoe, which was insecurity.
But simply put, my internship was a great experience. I learned more about the audit system that the firm uses. I met new wonderful people and got a taste of what working full-time in the firm will be like. I learned more about myself too and through critical self-review and asking others for feedback, I really experienced a lot of growth. And growth is what matters, ultimately.
Scientists don’t have the term ‘failure’, they only have the term ‘data‘. Every time I failed during my internship or even during the Spring semester, I saw it as data. Elections were painful, but it was a minor event in my life and it will help me improve for the future.
I was really formal during my internship and so I don’t think that I really got to make as many connections as I wanted to. I had lost sight of myself and I was barely rediscovering who Ophie was by the time I started.
When I met my career coach and internship buddy for dinner, my coach asked me about myself. We were at some grill downtown and I remember pausing. The scene seemed to go in slow-mo as I realized that hey, I don’t really know who I am as a person anymore. Who am I when I’m just hanging out at the bar with a drink in my hand?
I tried hard during the summer to really make a connection with people, but it’s hard to make a connection when you don’t really know who you are. And I did not know who I was, not fully.
In the end, I did accomplish the goal I had going into my internship which was to learn by experience. It taught me a lot about my strengths and weaknesses…and this knowledge, complemented by lots of prayer and hard work and the willingness to challenge myself, will take me far.
August-December: After my internship ended, I returned to CSUF to finish my last semester. I was only taking two classes, Audit and Tax. I also freelanced during this time and volunteered for a nonprofit to help with their writing. My audit teacher was actually my instructor during training in my internship and a director at the firm. He also helped develop the audit program the firm uses. He’s really cool and I enjoyed his class a lot. I think it might actually be the only class that I’ve taken at CSUF that I’ll actually miss!
Now that 2016 is ending in just a few hours, I can proudly say that I know who I am again. I have finally rediscovered myself… and even though I have impetigo right now, knowing who you are and feeling more confident in your own skin is the best feeling ever.