I marched in the first March for Our Lives in San Jose. It was raining; my poster was streaked with running ink. Marching in that protest was the first time I ever felt like I could do something. It was thrilling to think that maybe this time, we wouldn’t let violence end the story. This time, we would have the final word. This insurgence against a culture that allows gun violence to proliferate was wholly a youth movement. We sought to seize control of this culture that has so long treated children’s deaths as byproducts of guns. It was empowering to call out people in seats of power and demand that we, as people and as youth, be recognized as more worthy of protection than a firearm. I left feeling that my generation was mobilized to reshape the world into a more just, compassionate place.
When I was sitting in my bed, swaddled in my floofy white blankets with a cup of foamy matcha latte, emailing legislators and working on policy proposals. Casual Sunday morning. In that moment, I felt like I was in the "flow" state as coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. My emailing prowess and proposal game were at their top condition, and I was living for it. Quite honestly, I was having a blast forgoing a suit for a blanket while preparing for future advocacy stints and occasionally tooting MAP's horn. Envisioning myself walking down the streets of Sacramento or D.C., dress shoes clicking on the marble floor while psyching myself up to storm the capitol with our proposals and bills, or marching up to the podium at a public hearing and finessing my way through a spontaneous interview—that is a batch of exhilarating and empowering thoughts, if I do say so myself. Who's to say powerful advocacy can't start within the comfort of your own bed?
Although it's amazing to see how young individuals are making a difference in our world, I can truly see the strength in numbers. MAP members continue to inspire me not only with their individual passion but also with the support they give to their fellow activists. The community aspect of MAP is so inclusive and empowering in itself; thus, I would say I feel most empowered when I am able to be part of this awe-inspiring and student-driven youth movement.
I feel most empowered when I utterly fail. Let me explain. Of all the things in my life, failure has probably been the one constant. Whether it's socially, extracurricularly, or academically, I have messed up every step of the way, and I will continue to do so for many years to come. Of course, failing was not the end goal and it never should be for that matter, but it is important to recognize that there are lessons to be taken away from everything. In 7th grade, I was part of my middle school's Science Olympiad (SciOly) team. It was a rather selective program, so I was elated when I made it onto Team White (TW). Immediately I would start to get to work and build a model aircraft for the "Wright Stuff Event." At first I was super excited to build a rubber powered vehicle, but I soon realized the task was far from easy. Competition after competition I would frequently get 27th place. Despite my best efforts that year, I wouldn't surpass the top 20 spots. Suffice to say, this was discouraging and made me question why I was even placed into Science Olympiad. However, beyond this was a feeling of rage. This anger fueled me to work smarter the following year. I began to ask other competitors how they achieved good flight times and slowly but surely started to get mine up there as well! The key take–away is that there is a reason EVERY successful businessman, innovator, and entrepreneur had multiple failed attempts before launching a successful product; every unsuccessful prototype or marketing scheme empowered them to try harder the next time! This is the mentality more of us need to develop. No matter how many times you fail, you need to get up and work smarter. Let the screw ups empower you to do something great.
I felt the most empowered when I joined MAP because, for once, I felt like my voice mattered. I was able to speak up for issues I felt passionate about, raising awareness for them, actually making a difference and creating a change. It was incredible to see legislators value my input and actually take me seriously, never once did I feel like I was being treated differently because of my age. They made me feel like my voice mattered just as much as their's, despite our age differences. It made it feel like I was making a difference, like I was going somewhere, and this feeling couldn't have been possible without the awesomeness that is MAP :)