It was a chilly Thursday afternoon. 60 students and I boarded school buses and drove down to Grand Rapids, MI to compete in the Business Professionals of America State competition. On the trip there, I had flashbacks of the part I was most looking forward to from last year: the awards ceremony. I remember being summoned onto the stage with seven other teams of four, each group slowly being eliminated until the last two, which would be sent off to the National competition in Boston. I remember standing on the brightly lit stage and watching my advisors’ and friends’ faces beam when they got down to announcing the third place winner, after which we were still on the stage. I kept that memory in my mind during the entire trip. The night before, my team and I had practiced and practiced to the point of being able to recite our entire presentation in the dark with our eyes closed, so this was the year that we would finally make first and prove ourselves at Nationals. I kept this mindset in my head in the waiting room. We sat on the tan couches and anxiously waited for the team before us to exit the room. The door opened after what felt like years and, standing up and dusting off our clothes, we entered the room. A man and a woman sat at the corner of the dull conference room, and gave us a nod. We plugged in the big, clunky projector cart and laptop, and opened up our clean, professional PowerPoint. My mouth was parched, and our voices were just about shaking. After introducing ourselves, we finally were able to play the video that we had prepared. But the screen went black, and there was a sympathetic kind of silence in the room. To our very luck, I had the same exact video pulled up on YouTube. So I clicked the tab. The entire side bar was filled with, in my eyes, embarrassing “Recommended for you” videos, and our team of four, competing to show the most professionalism, probably just disproved ourselves, but in the heat of the moment, I didn’t really care. The video finally started, and everything was going so smoothly, until I saw that the screen was frozen, and so was I. The audio kept going, but the video was stuck on one frame, and wouldn’t budge. My friend slowly reached his hand over, anxiously, and rolled the video back to let it buffer. I could feel the hot breath of the judges almost as if it was straight down my mom’s shirt that I borrowed, and I couldn’t see it but I just knew that their eyeballs were rolling back into their heads at our unprofessionalism. The video continued, and we went on into explaining the technicalities of how we created our video. This was where we would prove ourselves and make up for our slip-ups. My teammates started explaining their slides. I looked over at the judges, and the disinterest on their faces could not be more apparent. I kept a smile, but I could tell that we all saw their faces, internally sulking at once. Trying to keep an optimistic attitude, at least till we walked out the doors, I delivered my lines as clear as I could, and when I thought that we could only go up from our situation, my laptop displayed, in bright blue letters: “You have 10% battery left.” All that was running through my mind was that were about to lose both our cool, and our title as state champions. The rest of the presentation was kind of a blur, but this was the first and probably last time we walked out of those bland, wooden doors without giggling and hi-fiving each other. The next morning, things went exactly how I thought they would. We took home fourth place, and after hysterically crying in the bathroom with my team(an event we would all like to pretend never happened), not making the national cut really taught us what it meant to work together as friends towards one cause, and to really appreciate that we’d made it so far.
April 9, 2017